The symbolic power of money: reminders of money alter social distress and physical pain

Psychol Sci. 2009 Jun;20(6):700-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02353.x. Epub 2009 May 5.


People often get what they want from the social system, and that process is aided by social popularity or by having money. Money can thus possibly substitute for social acceptance in conferring the ability to obtain benefits from the social system. Moreover, past work has suggested that responses to physical pain and social distress share common underlying mechanisms. Six studies tested relationships among reminders of money, social exclusion, and physical pain. Interpersonal rejection and physical pain caused desire for money to increase. Handling money (compared with handling paper) reduced distress over social exclusion and diminished the physical pain of immersion in hot water. Being reminded of having spent money, however, intensified both social distress and physical pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Economics*
  • Female
  • Hierarchy, Social
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Motivation
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Threshold
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Rejection, Psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Desirability
  • Symbolism*