The Symbolic Power of Money

The Symbolic Power of Money

Reminders of Money Alter Social Distress and Physical Pain

  1. Xinyue Zhou,
  2. Kathleen D. Vohs and
  3. Roy F. Baumeister
  1. Xinyue Zhou, Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China, e-mail:
  2. Kathleen Vohs, 3-150 321 19th Ave. S., Marketing Department, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, e-mail:


People often get what they want from the social system, and that process is aided by social popularity or by having money. Money can thus possibly substitute for social acceptance in conferring the ability to obtain benefits from the social system. Moreover, past work has suggested that responses to physical pain and social distress share common underlying mechanisms. Six studies tested relationships among reminders of money, social exclusion, and physical pain. Interpersonal rejection and physical pain caused desire for money to increase. Handling money (compared with handling paper) reduced distress over social exclusion and diminished the physical pain of immersion in hot water. Being reminded of having spent money, however, intensified both social distress and physical pain.

  • Received July 18, 2008.
  • Accepted October 29, 2008.

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