Impact of money on emotional expression☆
⁎, Zhansheng Chen
, Robert S. Wyer Jr.
Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Department of Psychology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Department of Marketing, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
•Money-primed individuals see public emotional expressions as less appropriate.
•Money-primed individuals show less emotional expressions themselves.
•Money-primed individuals judge others' emotions to be more extreme.
•Money-primed individuals avoid interacting with emotional others.
•These effects disappear when emotional expressions are believed to be private.
Received 26 August 2013
Revised 1 9 July 2014
Available online 31 July 2014
Psychology of money
Activating the concept of money can inﬂuence people's own expressions of emotion as well as their reactions to the
emotional expressions of others. Thinking about money increases individuals' disposition to perceive themselves in a
business-like relationship with others in which transactions are based on objective criteria and the expression of emo-
tion is considered inappropriate. Therefore, these individuals express less emotion in public and expect others to do
expressing emotions in public and to avoid expressing emotion in their written communications. In addition, money-
primed participants judge others' emotions to be more extreme and are disposed to avoid interacting with persons
who display these emotions, especially when participants believe that these emotions are expressed in public.
© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Money is the most common medium of exchange and pervades
many aspects of daily life. Consequently, most research has traditionally
focused on the motivational and functional effects of money. For exam-
ple, some studies have addressed the impact of having money on sub-
jective well-being (Diener, Ng, Harter, & Arora, 2010); others have
identiﬁed situational and individual difference variables that affect
how people perceive money (Furnham, 1984; Belk, 1991; Tang, 1992),
save money (Jahoda, 1981; Sonuga-Barke & Webley, 1993), spend
money (Lunt & Livingstone, 1992), and give away money (Knight,
Johnson, Carlo, & Eisenberg, 1994); for a review, see Lea and Webley
(2006). More recent research, however, indicates that the mere expo-
sure to money, devoid of any goal to which it might be relevant, can in-
ﬂuence people's behavior. For example, it may stimulate the adoption of
a utilitarian and business-like mindset (Kouchaki, Smith-Crowe, Brief, &
Sousa, 2013; Tong, Zheng, & Zhao, 2013) that leads to behaviors that are
relatively impersonal and self-focused, showing little concern for the
needs of others (Vohs, Mead, & Goode, 2006, 2008).
These ﬁndings have implications for a broad range of phenomena,
many of which have not yet been considered. The present research is
concerned with people's willingness to express emotion and their reac-
tions to others' emotional expression. Business relationships are relative-
ly impersonal and are guided by objective criteria. Emotions, however,
typically convey information about one another's needs (Ekman,
1993), and consequently the expression of these emotions is often con-
sidered inappropriate in business relationships. Therefore, if activating
a concept of money stimulates the adoption of a business-like mindset,
it may dispose people to think of social interactions in impersonal
terms and thus may not only inhibit their own expressions of emotion
but also inﬂuence their reactions to others' emotional expressions.
Our research evaluated implications of this general hypothesis. Six
experiments showed that exposure to money, out of the context of its
functional utility, leads people to have more negative attitudes toward
the public expression of emotionand to avoid expressing theiremotions
when communicating about emotion-laden events. Furthermore, it
leads people to evaluate others' expressions of emotion as more intense
and to avoid interacting with them, especially when they believe that
these emotions are expressed in public.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 55 (2014) 228–233
☆The preparation of th is manuscript was supported by Grants GRF 640 011, GRF
452813, GRF 493113, and PolyU 55 14/12H from the Research Grants Cou ncil of Hong
⁎Corresponding authorat: Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong
Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
E-mail address: email@example.com (Y. Jiang).
0022-1031/© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jesp
Money and interpersonal relationship
Because money is a quantiﬁable medium of social exchange, it has be-
come associated with the use of objective, rational bases for interpersonal
transactions. These transactions are generally impersonal (e.g., Simmel,
1978; Parry & Bloch, 1989). Vohs and colleagues proposed that the
mere exposure to money induces a feeling of self-suf ﬁciency that leads in-
dividuals to pursue their own objectives without involving others (Vohs
et al., 2008). Thus, their interactions with others exemplify an exchange
relationship in which transactions are impersonal and governed by quid
pro quo (Clark & Mills, 1979, 1993). To this extent, these individuals
tend to be concerned with the relative contribution that each person
makes to an interpersonal transaction rather than with the needs of
other individuals (Vohs et al., 2006; Caruso, Vohs, Baxter, & Waytz, 2013).
Money-induced feelings of self-interest can inﬂuence people's judg-
ment and behavior in various ways. For example, exposure tomoney in-
creases the focus on utilitarian consequences of a decision (Tong et al.,
2013) and prompts a self-interested cost–beneﬁt analysis of social in-
teractions (Tenbrunsel & Messick, 1999). People who are reminded of
money are less likely to offer help to others (Vohs et al., 2006), prefer
to play or work alone (Vohs et al., 2006), and are more supportive of
free-market systems that foster social inequality (Caruso et al., 2013).
Money and emotional expression
The expression of emotion is a key ingredient of social communica-
tion (Friedman & Miller-Herringer, 1991). Emotions play different roles
in different types of interpersonal relationships. Expressions of emotion
in an interaction often convey important information about the needs of
the persons involved (Bell & Ainsworth, 1972). However, they are con-
sidered less appropriate in business relationships that are primarily im-
personal and concerned with maintaining equity independent of other
considerations (Clark & Finkel, 2005). Financial analysts often advise in-
vestors to avoid letting emotions inﬂuence their investment decisions
(Lichtenfeld, 2009). Businessmen are also told to control their emotions
during negotiations, and one of the keys to successful business leader-
ship is believed to be the ability to exercise this control (Williams, 2007).
If thoughts about money dispose individuals to view their interac-
tions with others as business-like relationships, and if the expression of
emotion is considered inappropriate in these relationships, it seems like-
ly that activating concepts of money will inﬂuence not only people's own
expressions of emotion but their expectations for others also. That is, it
should lead them both to express less emotion themselves and to react
negatively to others' expressions of emotion in interpersonal contexts.
Six experiments conﬁrmed theseexpectations. In each study, we un-
obtrusively primed the concept of money by either showing partici-
pants pictures of banknotes or asking them to perform a sentence-
construction task in which money-related words were used (for the
use of these procedures, see Vohs et al., 2006, 2008). Experiment 1
showed that subtle reminders of money dispose individuals to report
less favorable attitudes toward expressing emotion. Experiment 2 and
Experiment 3 found that monetary reminders decrease the extremity
of participants' actual expressions of emotion in communications
about both a negative experience (a customer servicefailure) and a pos-
itive one (a funny movie). Experiment 4 and Experiment 5 found that
priming the concept of money led participants to judge others' facial ex-
pressions of emotion as more extreme, especially when these emotions
are expressed in public. Finally, Experiment 6 revealed that priming
money concepts decreases participants' desire to interact with persons
who are likely to display strong emotions.
Experiment 1: money and emotion expressiveness
Experiment 1 investigated the possibility that activating the concept
of money decreases the favorableness of individuals' attitudes toward
overt expression of emotions.
Twenty-three male and 71 female Hong Kong undergraduates par-
ticipated for extra course credit. Participants were randomly assigned
to one of two primingconditions (money vs.control). To prime the con-
cept of money, we adopted a money-prime manipulation frequently
used in past research (e.g. Vohs et al., 2006). Speciﬁcally, participants
were asked to rate 10 color pictures in terms of their lightingand clarity.
In the money-priming conditions, the pictures were of banknotes and
coins. In the control-priming conditions, the pictures showed various
types of seashells. After performing this task, participants reported
their current mood along a scale from 1 (bad/negative)to9(good/
positive). Responses to the two mood items were averaged (r=.78).
Next, as part of an ostensibly unrelated task, participants indicated
their agreement with six statements that concerned the desirability of
expressing emotions adopted from the Emotional Expressivity Scale
(Kring, Smith, & Neil, 1994): (a) I should keep my feelings to myself,
(b) even when I'm experiencing strong feelings, I shouldn't express
them outwardly, (c) what I'm feeling is not other people's business,
(d) it's inappropriate to display your emotions in public, (e) I don't
want other people to think I'm very emotional, and (f) I don't want to
be an emotionally expressive person. Participants reported their agree-
ment with each item along a scale from 1 (totally disagree)to9(totally
agree). Responses to these items were averaged (α=.63)toprovidea
single index of participants' attitudes toward expressing emotions.
Analyses of participants' attitudes toward emotional expressiveness
indicatedthatmoney-primedparticipants reported less favorable attitudes
toward expressing emotions (M= 3.89, SD = .99) than neutral-primed
participants did (M= 4.43, SD = 1.03; F(1, 92) = 6.87, p= .01, η
.07). In contrast, priming had no effect on participants' mood (pN.50).
Experiment 2: expression of negative emotions
If activating money concepts decreases individuals' favorable atti-
tudes toward the expression of extreme emotions, it should decrease
their own emotional behavior in situations in which these emotions
come into play. This is in fact the case. Experiment 2 showed that
reminding individuals of money decreases their expression of negative
emotions, and Experiment 3 showed that it decreases the expression
of positive emotions as well.
These effects might seem inconsistent with the results of Experiment
1, which found that priming money concepts had no inﬂuence on partic-
ipants' mood. However, mood is typically a diffuse, low-intensity affec-
tive reaction whose cause is unclear, whereas an emotion is a high-
intensity experience that is attributed to a speciﬁcsource(Wyer, Clore,
& Isbell, 1999). More importantly, emotions typically contain corre-
sponding expressive elements (e.g., facial expressions) whereas moods
do not (Ekman, 1993). To the extent that thoughts about money de-
crease the desire to display extreme feelings overtly, they are more likely
to inﬂuence emotional expression than to inﬂuence mood.
Sixty-eight men and 82 women (averaging 31 years of age) from the
United States were recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk
website and participated online in exchange for a small monetary
reward. Participants ﬁrst completed the same priming task as in
Experiment 1 except that the pictures in control conditions showed
furniture (e.g. chair and table) instead of seashells.
Next, in an ostensibly unrelated task about online behavior, partici-
pants were told to imagine that their newly purchased laptop had bro-
ken down and they were dissatisﬁed with how this issue was handled
by the company's customer service department. They were then asked
229Y. Jiang et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 55 (2014) 228–233
to write a negative product review to complain about the incident as if it
would be posted on a popular online public forum.
After ﬁnishing the writing task, participants reported their own
feelings during the writing task on a 9-point scale from 1 (not at all)
to 9 (extremely). Three questions referred to anger (angry,irritated,
and furious); the other three pertained to negative affect in general
Participants' responses to the three self-reported anger items (α=
.92) and the three negative affect items (α=.82)wereaveraged
to provide two indices of emotional expression. Participants report-
ed signiﬁcantly less anger (M= 5.31, SD = 2.29) when they
had been primed with money than when they had not (M= 6.07,
SD =1.74;F(1, 148) = 5.16, pb.03, η
= .03) and also less negative
affect (M= 5.34, SD = 2.34, vs. M= 6.16, SD = 1.55, respectively;
F(1, 148) = 6.34, pb.02, η
An independent judge who was blind to our hypothesis read the re-
views thatparticipants hadwritten and rated theemotions expressed in
the review on the same 9-point scale as the self-reported measures. The
judge's ratings of the three anger items and ratings of the three
negative-affect items were highly intercorrelated (αsN.95) and were
averaged. The judge's ratings were only correlated .17 with participants'
self-reported anger, and correlated .11 with participants' self-reported
Nevertheless, they were inﬂuenced in much the same
way by priming money. That is, the judge's ratings of the complaints
written by participants in the money-priming conditions indicated
that the complaints showed less anger than those written by control
participants (M= 5.23, SD = 2.18, vs. M= 6.83,SD = 1.53, respective-
ly; F(1, 148) = 26.50, pb.001, η
= .15) and contained less negative
affect (M=6.17,SD = 1.17, vs. M=7.27,SD = .73, respectively; F
(1, 148) = 46.54, pb.001, η
These results are therefore consistent with our hypothesis that ex-
posure to money decreases emotional expression. One might speculate,
however, that these effects might be attributable to more general differ-
ences in the motivation to perform the writing task. Two sets of data
rule out this possibility. First, the total number of words in each review
and the length of time (in minutes) participants spent writing were re-
corded. If money-primed participants do not care about the outcome
anymore, they should spend less time and write shorter complaints. In
fact, however, these participants did not differ from control participants
in either the length of time they spent writing the review (M=
3.83 min, SD = 2.75, vs. M=3.81min,SD = 2.29, respectively; Fb1)
or the length of their review (M=86words,SD = 52, vs. M=78
words, SD = 38, respectively; F(1, 148) = 1.26, pN.26). These results
suggest that motivation was not a factor.
To conﬁrm the conclusion that motivational factors do not account
for the effects of money priming, 53 men and 47 women (averaging
35 years of age) were recruited through the same online panel and
completed the same priming task as participants in Experiment 2. In-
stead of writing a review, however, they answered several questions
concerning (a) the extent to which they thought that the defective lap-
top was a “big deal,”(b) the extent to which the product's failure con-
cerned them, and (c) whether they cared about the product's failure,
along 9-point scales (α= .92). Participants also indicated thelikelihood
that they would ask the company for a full refund and would discard
this laptop and buy a new one.
Participants in the money and control conditions reported a sim-
ilar concern in this situation (M= 8.22, SD = 1.00, vs. M= 8.30,
SD = 1.03, respectively; Fb1). Moreover, they were equally likely
to ask the company for a full refund (M= 8.42, SD = 1.23, vs. M= 8.42,
SD = 1.44, respectively; Fb1), or to trash this laptop and buy a new one
(M= 3.06, SD = 2.52, vs. M= 3.20, SD = 2.63, respectively; Fb1).
These ﬁndings also argue against the interpretation that priming money
led participants to feel more self-sufﬁcient and, therefore, to be less
concerned about losing capital goods (e.g., a broken laptop).
Experiment 3: expression of positive emotions
Experiment 3 examined whether activating the thought of money
would decrease the expression of positive emotions, like it did for neg-
ative emotions in Experiment 2.
Twenty-six male and 50 female Hong Kong undergraduates partici-
pated for extra course credit. After performing the same priming task
employed in Experiment 2, participants watched a short video clip from
Happy Gilmore, a funny movie about a rejected hockey player (played
by American comedian Adam Sandler). After watching the video, partici-
pants were told that we were interested in how college students commu-
nicate to one another and would therefore like them to describe the
movie clip in writing to another group of students in a later experimental
session. They were told to describe the content of the clip, the feelings it
aroused, and any thoughts they would like to share with others.
After ﬁnishing the writing task, participants reported their agree-
ment with four statements concerning their own reactions to the ﬁlm
clip along scales from 1 (not at all)to9(very much): (a) I just could
not stop laughing when I was watching the movie clip, (b) this movie
made me laugh, (c) I was excited when watching this movie clip, and
(d) I was happy when watching this movie clip.
Participants' responses to the four self-reported emotion items
were averaged (α= .92) to provide a single index of their emotional
expression. Participants reported signiﬁcantly less intense emotion-
al reactions to the movie when they had been primed with money
(M=4.86,SD = 2.20) than when they had not (M=6.12,SD =1.55;
F(1, 74) = 8.30, pb.01, η
This difference was conﬁrmed by the emotions that participants
expressed in their written descriptions. Two judges who were
blind to our hypothesis rated the feelings conveyed by each de-
scription along a scale from 1 (not emotional at all)to9(extremely
emotional). Judges' ratings were highly consistent (r=.65)and
were averaged. Unlike Experiment 2, these ratings were correlated
.65 with participants' self-reported expressions of emotion and, as
exp ected , were le ss extre me when participants had been primed
with money (M= 5.41, SD = 2.36) than when they had not (M=6.55,
SD = 1.35; F(1, 74) = 6.74, pb.02, η
To summarize, the results of Experiment 2 and Experiment 3 indi-
cated that money-primed participants expressed less positive as well
as negative emotions when communicating to others. This difference
in emotional expression was represented in both participants' self-
reported judgments of their emotional reactions and their actual
expression of emotions in communication.
Experiment 4: judgments of others' emotions
People are likely to believe that others behave (or should behave)
the same way that they personally behave under comparable circum-
stances (Ross, Greene, & House, 1977; Marks & Miller, 1987). Conse-
quently, they may use themselves as a standard of comparison in
These correlations suggest that the criteria the judge used to infer the extremity of
emotions conveyed in participants' written complaints differed substantially from the
criteria that participants themselves used as a basis for their estimates. The reason for
the low correlati on between the judge's ratings of emotions and participants' self-
reports is unclear. (This correlation was quite high in Experiment 3, when positive emo-
tions were judged, as will be indicated pres ently.) However, the converging effects of
the two independent indices of emotion extremity are noteworthy.
230 Y. Jiang et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 55 (2014) 228–233
interpreting others' behavior. If this is so, and if people who have been
primed with money express little emotion and expect others to do so
as well, they should evaluate others' emotional expressions as more
extreme relative to these expectations than they otherwise would.
Twenty-one male and 38 female Hong Kong undergraduates partic-
ipated for a fast-food restaurant coupon. They were randomly assigned
to the money-priming or control condition. Participants ﬁrst performed
a sentence-unscrambling task similar to that employed by Vohs et al.
(2006). The task consisted of 30 sets of ﬁve randomly ordered words.
In each case, participants were asked to use four of the words to con-
struct a meaningful phrase or sentence. In the money-priming condi-
tions, 15 of the phrases pertained to money (e.g., “she cashed a
check”). In the control-priming conditions, all phrases activated neutral
concepts (e.g., “he took a glass”).
Participants were then told that the next task was about students' abil-
ity to read facial expressions, and they were shown four pictures from the
Radboud Faces Database (Langner et al., 2010). The pictures (see Appendix
A) portrayed one person of each sex with a happy expression and one per-
son of each sex with a sad expression. Participants judged the intensity of
the emotion conveyed by each picture along scales from 1 (not intense at
all/very weak)to9(very intense/very strong). Responses along these scales
were averaged to provide a single index of intensity (α= .67).
Analyses of participants' intensity judgments as a function of
priming conditions, the sex of the model, and the model's expres-
sion (happy vs. sad) indicated that money-primed participants
rated the emotional expressions shown in the pictures as more intense
(M=5.96,SD = .71) than control participants did (M= 5.22, SD =.86;
F(1, 57) = 13.18, pb.001). This is true for both the happy pictures
(M= 6.00, SD = 1.04, vs. M= 5.33, SD = 1.13, respectively; F(1,
57) = 5.66, pb.03, η
= .09) and the sad pictures (M= 5.92, SD =
.88, vs. M=5.10,SD = 1.13, respectively; F(1, 57) = 9.53, pb.01,
= .14). No other effects involving (money vs. control) priming
conditions were signiﬁcant (all Fsb1).
In summary, exposure to money not only decreases one's own ex-
pression of emotion (as shown in Experiment 2 and Experiment 3)
but also inﬂuences one's reaction to others' emotion. Consistent with
our expectations, participants judged others' positive and negative
emotional expressions as more intense after being reminded of
money. Money-primed individuals apparently used a more neutral
standard of comparison in evaluating emotional expression, and thus
they judged others' expression of emotion as more intense relative to
this standard than other participants did.
Experiment 5: judgments of public versus private emotions
Experiment 4 showed that money-primed participants judged
others' emotions as more extreme. This is presumably because
money-primed individuals used a lower threshold of tolerance for
others' emotions. However, this stance may only be applied to public
situations in which a business-like relationship is likely to be assumed.
If participants believe that the situation in which others expressed
their emotions is less likely to be public, the effect observed in
Experiment 4 might be attenuated.
Eighty-three women and 101 men (averaging 36 years of age) from
the United States were recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk
website and participated online in exchange for a small monetary re-
ward. Participants ﬁrst completed the same picture-priming task as in
Experiment 1 except that the pictures in control conditions showed
green leaves instead of seashells.
Then, participants in public-emotion conditions were told that the
next task concerned people's judgments of others' public expressions of
emotion. They were advised that “people sometimes reveal their emo-
tions in an environment when other people (acquaintances or strangers)
are also present and their emotions can be seen clearly by others,”that
they (the participants) would see several photos of individuals' public ex-
pressions of emotion, and that they would be asked to judge those pic-
tures. In private-emotion conditions, participants were told that “people
sometimes express their emotions in a private setting—that is, they reveal
their emotions in an environment where no other people are and their
emotions cannot be seen,”and that they would see and judge several
photos of people's private emotional expressions.
After the public- versus private-emotion manipulation, partici-
pants were shown six pictures in a randomized order. The pictures
each portrayed a male or female with a happy expression. Partici-
pants judged the intensity of the emotion portrayed in each picture
along scales from 1 (not intense at all/very weak)to9(very intense/
very strong). Responses along these scales were averaged to provide
a single index of intensity (α= .93). Participants also indicated
whether they believed that the individuals in the photographs
knew they were being photographed, knew they were watched by
others, and thought their emotional expression was public (α=
.86), along scales from 1 (deﬁnitely no)to9(deﬁnitely yes). These
judgments were averaged.
Participants in the public-emotion condition believed that people in
the photographs they saw were more likely to be in a public setting (M=
7.65, SD = 1.64) than did participants in the private-emotion condition
(M= 7.07, SD = 1.74, F(1, 180) = 5.45, pb.03). Judgments in the latter
condition were above the scale midpoint, indicating that participants did
not believe the photographs in this condition to be completely private.
Nonetheless, the assumption that the relative privacy of participants' per-
ceptions differed over conditions seems justiﬁed.
Participants' judgments of emotional intensity were analyzed as a
function of priming and type of emotion. The interaction of priming
and emotion type was signiﬁcant (F(1, 180) = 4.56, pb.04). As expect-
ed, money-primed participants rated the emotional expressions shown
in the pictures as more intense (M=6.64,SD = 1.04) than did control
participants when the emotions were expressed publicly (M= 5.98,
SD =1.39;F(1, 180) = 6.46, pb.02, η
= .04), but not when they
were expressed less publicly (M= 6.27, SD = 1.30, vs. M= 6.39,
SD = 1.17, respectively; Fb1).
Thus, these results conﬁrm our assumption that priming concepts of
money increases individuals' expectations that people do not or should
not express extreme emotions in public. Consequently, it increases their
judgments of the intensity of emotions expressed in such situations relative
to these expectations. However, individuals consider extreme emotions to
be relatively more appropriate when they are expressed less publicly, and
so judgments of these emotions are not affected by priming money.
Experiment 6: intentions to interact with emotional others
People's own attitude toward the expression of extreme emo-
tions may inﬂuence their motivation to avoid situations in which
these emotions are likely to be elicited (Maio & Esses, 2001). There-
fore, if priming money decreases individuals' perceived desirability
of expressing extreme emotions in public and leads them to dislike
others' expression of emotions, it should decrease their willingness
to interact with persons who display such emotions. Experiment 6
examined this possibility.
231Y. Jiang et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 55 (2014) 228–233
Twenty-one male and 52 female Hong Kong undergraduates partici-
pated for a small monetary reward. They were randomly assigned to
either money-priming or control-priming conditions. After completing
the sentence-unscrambling task used to prime concepts in Experiment
4, participants were shown three male faces (again taken from the
Radboud Faces Database; see Appendix B).Onefaceconveyedhappiness,
a second conveyed anger, and the third was neutral. Participants were
told that each picture portrayed an incoming exchange student and
were asked to indicate the extent to which they would want to
(a) know more about the person, (b) meet the person, and (c) make
friends with the person, along scales from 1 (not at all)to9(extremely).
Responses to the three measures of intentions to interact with the
person in each picture were averaged (αN.91) and analyzed as a func-
tion of priming and type of picture. Pooled over priming conditions, par-
ticipants were more willing to interact with the person who had a
happy expression (M= 5.66, SD = 1.68) than the person who had a
neutral expression (M=4.77,SD = 1.45) or the person who expressed
anger (M= 3.16, SD = 1.79, F(2, 142) = 58.88, pb.001).
More important, the interaction of priming and type of picture was
also signiﬁcant (F(2, 142) = 3.38, pb.04). As expected, money-primed
participants were less inclined than control participants to interact with
both the person who expressed happiness (M= 5.17, SD = 1.57, vs. M
=6.17,SD =1.66,respectively;F(1, 71) = 6.92, p=.01,η
.09)andthepersonwhoexpressedanger(M=2.65,SD = 1.42,
vs. M=3.68,SD =2.00,respectively;F(1, 71) = 6.46, pb.02, η
= .08), but not the person who had a neutral expression (M=
4.79, SD = 1.46, vs. M=4.75,SD = 1.48, respectively; Fb1).
In short, priming the concept of money decreased participants' willing-
ness to interact with individuals who expressed intense emotions, and this
was true regardless of whether the emotions were positive or negative.
Priming concepts of money, independent of its relation to the goals
or motives with which it is associated in daily life, can inﬂuence people's
judgments and behavior (Vohs et al., 2006, 2008). Our research provides
new evidence of this inﬂuence. Six experiments consistently show that
activating the concept of money leads personsto react more unfavorably
to both their own and others' public expressions of emotion. Speciﬁcally,
money reminders lead people to have more negative attitudes toward
expressing emotions themselves (Experiment 1), to decrease their ex-
pressions of emotion when communicating about both a negative
event and a positive one (Experiment 2 and Experiment 3), to interpret
others' public expressions of emotion as more extreme (Experiment 4
and Experiment 5), and to decrease their willingness to interact with
persons who convey strong emotions (Experiment 6).
Several possible implications of our ﬁndings deserve mention. If a
consideration of money increases individuals' perception that the public
expression of emotion is inappropriate, it may decrease the desirability
of using money as a medium of exchangewhen strong feelings are being
conveyed. Others (Belk & Coon, 1993) note that money and love are
considered incompatible resources that cannot be exchanged. More-
over, money can sometimes be unsuitable as a gift (Webley, Lea, &
Portalska, 1983), and ﬁnancial rewards sometimes discourage the
performance of altruistic activities (Ariely, Bracha, & Meier, 2009). Our
ﬁndings offer a potential explanation for these phenomena.
Although the present research provides strong evidence of the effect
of money on emotional expression, the universality of such an associa-
tion remains to be examined. People from different cultures may hold
different attitudes and attachments toward money (e.g. Lynn, 1991),
and their use, perception, and understanding of money may differ
(Furnham & Argyle, 1998). These different conceptualizations of
money may underlie other dichotomies, for example, “traditional”vs.
“modern,”“pre-capitalist”vs. “capitalist,”“gift economy”vs. “commodity
economy”(Parry & Bloch, 1989). And money, as a medium of exchange,
certainly plays a more important role in societies that are more modern,
capitalistic, and commodity-based. In the current research, however, we
found a converging pattern of data in both western (North American)
participants in Experiment 2 and Experiment 5 and eastern (Hong
Kong) participants in other experiments. Because Hong Kong is a highly
commercialized metropolitan society, however, these ﬁndings do not
preclude the possibility that money plays a different role in a more tradi-
tional Asian culture. The inﬂuence of cultural difference on the magnitude
of the effects we observed needs further investigation.
The current investigation focused on the effect of monetary
reminders on people's expression of emotions. The effects of these re-
minders on people's actual feelings of emotion, however, are less
clear. On one hand, thoughts about money could interfere with an
individual's emotional responses and make them emotionally “numb”
(e.g. Twenge, Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Bartels, 2007). On the
other hand, the evidence that priming money had no effect on partici-
pants' perceptions of others' emotions when these emotions were
expressed privately suggests that individuals' actual feelings may in
fact not be affected, only the public expression of them. Nevertheless,
the distinction between people's actual feelings of emotion and their
willingness to express them is worth further consideration.
Appendix A. Pictures used in Experiment 4
Appendix B. Pictures used in Experiment 6
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