A new study finds that money not only eases physical pain, but also helps lessen the emotional pain caused by feeling socially rejected. The results concluded that participants experienced both psychological and physical effects from either touching money or thinking about expenses.
Through six experiments, the researchers hoped to determine if money can alter how one experiences social acceptance and rejection, as well as physical pain.
One experiment consisted of 84 participants who were divided into two groups. One group was asked to count money and the other counted paper. Each person was then asked to play a computer game called Cyberball. Half of the participants played a rigged version designed to exclude the players from receiving turns. The volunteers who played this version reported feeling snubbed; however, those that had counted the money experienced lower levels of social rejection than the group that had counted paper.
Another experiment also began with one group counting money and the other plain paper. The participants were then asked to immerse their fingers in very hot water. Overall, the group that counted money reported lower levels of pain.
The scientists repeated the experiments without the bills to determine if the money had served as a distraction. This time, one group wrote about their expenses and the other wrote about the weather. Afterward, the participants either put their fingers in hot water or played the fixed version of Cyberball. The research team found that writing about expenses caused anxiety and intensified the physical pain and the feelings of rejection.
As study co-author Kathleen Vohs told Live Science:
“These effects speak to the power of money, even as a symbol, to change perceptions of very real feelings.”
This study appeared in the June issue of Psychological Science.