When my children were young we used to play the game Monopoly. This was one of my son’s favorite games. And mine. It got to the point where no one would play with us anymore. We were too tough, too ruthless. The games would go on forever because neither he nor I would be willing to compromise or negotiate. “You’re getting mean” my daughter would complain. And it was true. I could feel myself acting differently.
It turns out that my behavior was predictable. Kathleen Vohs, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota researches the effect that money has on people. She doesn’t even use actual money. It turns out that just the concept of money changes behavior.
In her research studies she gives people sentences to unscramble, some of which have money references, or she has them do tasks in a room where Monopoly money is on the table, or a picture of money is on a screen saver. Then she puts the participants into various situations, for example, someone walking through the room drops a box of pencils, or another (supposed) participant asks for help, or someone requests that the participant donate to a charity.