Study: Handling money decreases helpful behavior

New research suggests that just holding bills in our hands makes us less inclined to provide aid to others

Topics: Pacific Standard, study, Money, France, human nature, cash, Science, , ,

Study: Handling money decreases helpful behavior
This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

Pacific StandardIt’s one of life’s less-charming little ironies: having money makes people less sensitive to others’ needs. That was the conclusion of a groundbreaking 2006 study, which found the mere thought of cash puts us in a mindset of self-sufficiency, in which we “prefer to be free of dependency and dependents.”

Ah, but researcher Kathleen Vohs’ experiments were conducted in a lab. Would such a depressing dynamic be found in a real-world setting?

Recently published research from France finds the answer is: sadly, yes. Researchers Nicolas Guéguen and Céline Jacob report that, in two experiments conducted near an ATM machine, “handling money several seconds earlier was associated with a decrease in helping behavior.”

Their study, published in the Journal of Socio-Economics,looks at the behavior of people in their 30s and 40s who were “walking alone in a pedestrian street” in a medium-sized French city. Half of them “were approached after using an automatic teller machine, and thus having touched money.” The others walked by the ATM without using it.

You Might Also Like

The first experiment featured 50 men and 50 women. All were asked by a female member of the research team if they would take a short survey about children and authority.

Sixty-two percent of those who had not used the ATM agreed to take the time to complete the survey. In contrast, only 34 percent of those who had just handled money agreed to the request.

The second experiment, which featured 25 men and 25 women, examined people’s responses to an immediate need. The female member of the team “began walking in the same direction as the participant about three meters away,” the researchers write. After “accidentally” dropping a bus pass, she kept walking, “apparently unaware of her loss.”

Among those who had not used the ATM, an impressive 96 percent informed the woman that she had dropped her bus pass. However, among those who had just held money in their hands, only 60 percent did so.

Together, the experiments provide further evidence in support of Vohs’ thesis. So if you’re going to ask someone for help of any kind, don’t do it in front of a bank—or anywhere else where money is changing hands.

While it’s not clear how long the effect lasts, it seems clear that the impulse to assist others is dampened by the tantalizing feel of those crisp bills.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Sonic

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.

    KFC

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.

    Interscope

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...