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Cash as a Painkiller?

Written by Nickel - 5 Comments

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While money can’t buy happiness, it might just be able to reduce pain. That’s the finding of an interesting piece of research from the University of Minnesota. Apparently cash and reminders of cash can help to reduce physical and emotional pain.

Indeed, according to U of M researcher Kathleen Vohs:

“When people are reminded of money, it gives them an inner strength… and that means when they face challenges and adversity, after being freshly reminded of money, they’re able to handle them better.”

In one study, Vohs split her subjects into two test groups. One test group was handed money, whereas another was given slips of paper. They were then asked to put their hands in hot water and rate their level of pain.

Interestingly, the subjects in the cash group reported significantly lower discomfort than those in the plain paper group. In a related study, cash handlers who were later shunned by others while playing a computer game felt less excluded than the plain paper group.

Here’s a short video of Vohs describing some of her work:

As for possible applications of her findings, Vohs suggests that airlines should consider offering cash compensation instead of vouchers to travelers that experience unreasonable delays. Similarly, she thinks that doctors should consider providing patients with cash reminders to reduce discomfort.

What do you think? Does cash make you more tolerant of discomfort? Keep in mind that we’re not talking about getting paid here. Rather, it appears that just coming into contact with a bit of green is enough to have an effect.

Published on April 5th, 2010 - 5 Comments
Filed under: Miscellany

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. lol! i do have a couple of $50 bills stashed…maybe if i got them out & massaged the dislocated shoulder with ’em….? 🙂

    seriously, tho — isn’t that a strange research finding!

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 6th 2010 @ 11:18 am
  2. Interesting article! Money in hand even after heavy shopping is a real good painkiller, especially to the frugal buyers like me. I believe, money saved is money earned. And, that is why I always opt for cash back sites like ShopAtHome, Bing, AAfter Search and Ebates while shopping.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 6th 2010 @ 7:24 pm
  3. Retailers have known the concept of reminding you about money you still have for centuries. It took me a year to convince my girlfriend that the “You saved $xx.xx” line on her retail receipts was not making her any money and that buying whatever you want but using “Cash Back” credit cards is not the way to become financially independent. People who “love to get a good deal” are usually just denying shop-a-holics.

    I’m switching from a reward credit card to a reward checking account in a month so that I don’t have to spend a certain amount of money in order to get rewarded. I can buy nothing but food for a month and I get 4% guaranteed interest on all the money I didn’t spend.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 6th 2010 @ 8:09 pm
  4. As crazy as I thought that this article seemed at first, it actually makes sense. In fact, I have designed a website to help people save money and reduce or get out of debt and one of the ways to help people stay motivated that I use is cash. It is interesting to read an actually study on this. Sometimes it can be a pain to save money and sacrifice somethings while you are trying to get out of debt. This extra little incentive can be helpful in alleviating the pain.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 6th 2010 @ 11:08 pm
  5. I use dollar bills instead of band-aids 🙂

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 7th 2010 @ 6:05 am

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