In the Company of Wealth: Investigating Money's Effects on Perceptions of the Self, the Social World, and the Supernatural
In this thesis, I sought to establish whether the mere presence of money differentially affects the perception of competent and autonomous control over life outcomes among people of relatively low and high self-perceived wealth. According to my theoretical perspective regarding the effects of monetary cues, thinking about money should cause people to view themselves in terms of their own relative financial resources. As money is perceived as a resource that enables competent and autonomous control over life outcomes, the presence of money should cause people low in wealth to feel lower in personal control and autonomy and should motivate the preservation or retrieval of a sense of control and autonomy. By contrast, the presence of money should cause the wealthy to feel higher in personal control and autonomy. Three experiments were designed to test hypotheses stemming from this view and to broaden our understanding of how and why money affects cognition and behaviour. In Experiment 1, I tested whether a money prime affected perceived control, autonomy, and need for structure. For people low in self-perceived wealth, money decreased autonomy and control over life outcomes, and increased the need for structure. People high in wealth were not affected by the money prime. In Experiment 2, I examined whether the presence of money had consequences for interactions with others in social environments characterized by low and high structure. In a setting lacking structure, the presence of money caused people of lower socioeconomic status (SES) to prefer less social contact compared to people of higher SES. The interacting effects of money and SES diminished when the environment was structured in nature. In Experiment 3, I tested competing hypotheses regarding whether the presence of money can influence attitudes and beliefs about external sources of control. I found that when people who were lower in wealth were primed with money, versus not, they reported lesser belief in a controlling god. By contrast, when people of higher wealth were primed with money, versus not, they reported greater belief in a controlling god. I discuss my findings vis-à-vis the current perspective and previous money priming research.