Money is an incentive to work hard, but it also promotes selfish behavior. Those conclusions may not be surprising, but psychologists at the University of Minnesota recently found that merely thinking of money makes people less likely to give help to others. Researchers subconsciously reminded some volunteers of money by showing them lucre-related words such as “salary” or by revealing a poster with currency on it. Other participants were primed with play money or neutral stimuli. All those involved in the study then performed different tasks that were unrelated to money but that assessed their behavior in social situations. When money is on the brain, people become disinclined to ask for help when faced with a difficult or even impossible puzzle. And individuals who think, even subconsciously, about money are less helpful than others, the researchers report in the November 17 Science.
This article was originally published with the title "Think of Money, Be Less Helpful" in Scientific American 296, 2, 25 (February 2007)