Money cues influence life-satisfaction predictions for new educational institutes

The relationship between money and happiness has always been one of hide and seek. Does having more money lead to greater life-satisfaction? Literature so far directed to two opposing directions. Some studies show that greater income leads to greater life-satisfaction, while others show otherwise. Economic theories on happiness suggest that with greater income happiness increases while psychological theories suggest that interpersonal relationships and health concerns are major components of life-satisfaction.

We decided to adopt a novel approach to study the relationship between money and life-satisfaction. Instead of focusing on the actual financial background, students were shown pictures of money to activate the concept of money in the mind. This procedure is called priming in social science research. Students were asked to rate their own life-satisfaction on a scale and were also asked to predict happiness and life-satisfaction for students at new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and at old IITs. Half of the students (money group) were given this task on a paper which had pictures of money in the background. Another half (non-money group) completed the same task on papers which had a scrambled version of the same picture in the background that was beyond recognition. Two such experiments were conducted with students at IIT Gandhinagar and IIT Bombay. It was found that the background pictures did not affect self-satisfaction judgments among students both at IIT Gandhinagar and IIT Bombay. Monetary backgrounds however increased predicted differences in life-satisfaction between new and old IIT students at both the IITs. In fact, money lowered the life-satisfaction judgments of students at new IITs. The authors attributed the findings to the market-pricing mode of thought that may be brought on by mere reminders of money. Money might activate uncertainty about life in the campus of the new IITs, both among students who study themselves in a new IIT or in an old IIT. The researchers think that such kind of research would help understand student life-satisfaction and aid educational policies. It is interesting to find that simply activating the concept of money might change our beliefs and expectations.

Mukherjee, S., Nargundkar, M., & Manjaly, J.A. (2014). Monetary primes increase differences in predicted life-satisfaction between new and old Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Psychological Studies, 59(2), 191-196. doi:10.1007/s12646-014-0259-5