Money’s Power

The Symbolic Power of Money by Zhou, X., Vohs, K.D., & Baumeister, R.F outlines some of the pervasive affects money has on our psychological and physical well-being.

  • The act of counting money makes people feel stronger.
  • Recollections of having spent money make people feel weaker (why people hate tracking expenses and budgets and why the great recession feels so bad).
  • The thought of money can affect how we perceive physical pain and social rejection.
  • Rejection stirred a greater desire for money, and thoughts of losing money made social rejections sting more.

Psychosomatic medicine has found that social isolation tends to raise stress hormones and blood pressure, and weakens the immune system (Begley, “All in Your Head? Yes, and Scientists Are Figuring Out Why…” WSJ, B1, 17 Mar 06)

  • The Implication:
  • Money can be a substitute for relationships
  • Money can buy relationships or at least the illusion of relationships. For example:
  • Sex
  • Spouses who remain in marriages “for the money”
  • Doing it, whatever “it” is for the money degrades the sense of self and increases the risks of materialism
  • Thinking about money made physical pain feel less acute. Thoughts of losing money made physical pain worse
  • In other words, the belief that a paper loss is real and permanent makes physical pain worse
  • In a separate study a significant loss of money, death or divorce can cause “broken heart” syndrome and death. (Winslow, R., “Hearts Actually Can Break”. WSJ, D1, 9 Feb 10.)
  • The primary effect of the idea of money is to promote:
  • General feelings of strength, efficacy and confidence and these feelings act as a buffer against social rejection and physical pain.
  • Psychosomatic medicine has shown that being socially engaged is associated with less coronary artery disease, fewer colds & other infections, and longer life. (Begley, WSJ)


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