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Does money impact your perception of love?


Couple happy

Credit: iStock

Romantic love is a pure emotion unsullied by worldly concerns… right? Well, maybe not if you talk to evolutionary psychologists who see the forces of mate selection driving what we call “love”. If you are an incurable romantic who feels this is a typically soulless conclusion derived from reductionist science then the findings of a new study may shake your faith because it does seem that the crass commodity of money influences romantic behaviour.

The new study actually consisted of two experiments. All of the subjects were heterosexual, aged 18 to 27 and involved in on ongoing relationship ranging in duration from two months to seven years, with an average duration of 20 months.

The individuals who had been made to feel wealthy selected a closer seat to the attractive alternative than those in the relatively poor condition.

In the first experiment subjects were made to feel either more or less wealthy using an established psychological procedure. Following this subjects were asked to complete a measure of satisfaction with their romantic partners and to answer demographic questions about gender, age, and monthly income. Partner satisfaction was measured for both physical attractiveness and resources they brought. It emerged that men who had been made to feel wealthy were less satisfied with their current partner’s physical appearance and were more likely to consider short-term relationships than men who had been made to feel poorer. Women who had been made to feel wealthy did not rate their partners as less attractive than the women who had been made to feel poorer.

In the second experiment the researchers used a mental simulation method to prime the feeling of having relatively more or less money. Subjects were asked to read an essay about growing up having either abundant financial resources or meagre resources to activate the idea of having an abundant or a restricted amount of money.

After the subjects finished imagining a rich or poor life, they were shown a photograph of an attractive opposite sex person and told that they would be having a three minute face-to-face conversation with him/her. Subjects were then taken to the next room, which had a long desk and six chairs. For half of the participants, a bag, a coat, and a book occupied the position closest to the door at one end of the group of chairs, while for the other half of the participants, these items were placed at the position furthest from the door at the other end of the group of chairs. This controlled for the influence of distance from the door on the subjects’ choices. The subjects were told that the person they would be talking to had been sitting on the seat with the items and would come back soon. They were asked to take a seat and wait for a moment. They had five choices of chair (from 1 = “closest to” to 5 = “furthest from” this fictitious other’s seat). Their chair choice represented their chosen distance from the attractive alternative.

The individuals who had been made to feel wealthy selected a closer seat to the attractive alternative than those in the relatively poor condition. In addition, the men chose a closer seat than the women. So the feeling of having relatively more money motivates individuals to approach attractive alternatives more closely than the feeling of having relatively less money does.

The two experiments suggests that how wealthy you feel does influence your relationship behaviour. It saddens the romantic heart but it does appear that money changes everything.



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.