PSYCHOLOGY: ‘Tis the Season

Science  22 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5807, pp. 1843c
DOI: 10.1126/science.314.5807.1843c

Although the giving of gifts is a common activity at this time of year, giving a gift certificate has become an allowable substitute for giving money, which is generally regarded as unseemly. In order to explore whether money can serve not only as a useful instrument (for the purchase of material goods) but also as a valued resource, Briers et al. have carried out a series of experiments to see whether an unfulfilled desire for food (or money) might make one more tight-fisted (or more voracious). People who were hungry behaved less generously toward a charity (Médecins Sans Frontières) and in public goods games than those who had just eaten cake; conversely, people who were told to imagine being desirous of a substantial payoff (being in such a state was confirmed by how much their estimates of the size of a coin were skewed to be larger than actual) consumed more M&M's than those who were focused on a modest windfall. These results linking the rewarding character of food to that of money dovetail neatly with a recent study (Vohs et al., Reports, p. 1154, 17 November 2006) that demonstrated money's value as a means of enhancing one's self-sufficiency and social independence. — GJC

Psychol. Sci. 17, 939 (2006).

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