Even Small Children Are Less Helpful after Touching Money

Posted on June 22, 2016

One experiment, for example, had a pedestrian drop a bus pass in front of people who had just gotten money out of a cash machine or merely walked past the machine. People who had gotten money out of the cash machine were less likely to alert the woman that she had dropped her pass. While money can hamper helpfulness, it also confers psychological advances in the form of making people more persistent and more successful at solving challenging problems.

Our own research reveals that handling money can trigger all these behaviors, in different cultures, at a surprisingly early age—3 years-old. Even the very young are less likely to lend a helping hand, after touching money, or to work harder at solving challenging problems like correctly solving a labyrinth. And, all this happens despite a relative lack of experience with money or knowledge of its value.

We documented the effects of money on young children’s behavior in a series of experiments. In one experiment, we instructed some children to sort money by denomination, while others sorted buttons by color. They then went to a different room where their performance on a difficult task was put to the test. They were given a maze to solve and were told they could quit at any time. Money sorters worked longer and were more successful at solving the maze than button sorters.

Collectively, the experiments provide evidence of how merely touching money can change young children’s behavior in good and bad ways. We also attempted to rule out a number of alternative explanations: The results were not due to money’s value, children’s knowledge about money, age, mood, level of interest in the sorting task, or desirability of money.

Young children show evidence of some remarkably advanced complex concepts such as justice, religion, and physics. Despite not being able to articulate it, children’s minds have formed adult-like connections for these concepts. Money, for good or bad, can be added to this list.

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Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues

Source material from Scientific American


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