Show them the money

Times Staff Writer

CONTEMPLATING those fat greenbacks in your wallet may do more than give you a warm tingly feeling in the old back pocket. Just thinking about money appears to boost productivity while dampening the urge to make nice with your neighbor, researchers have found.

In nine laboratory experiments, 500 participants completed tasks while being exposed to money in some form, such as monopoly dollars or a computer screen-saver depicting currency. The investigators found that the subjects exposed to reminders of money worked significantly harder and were more reticent about asking for help than those not exposed to money. They were also significantly less helpful to fellow participants and preferred to stay at a greater physical distance from others.

"The magnitude of the difference was tremendous," says Kathleen Vohs, lead investigator on the study and an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. "It was unlike anything I've seen in the lab and I've done 75 papers."

Although the results would seem to confirm that money brings out the hidden lout in us all, investigator Nicole Mead believes that the relationship is more complicated. A graduate student in psychology at Florida State University, she suggests that money fosters a feeling of self-sufficiency, and less reliance on others. Score one for the greenbacks.

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