Money priming can change people's thoughts, feelings, motivations, and behaviors: An update on 10 years of experiments

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Caruso, Vohs, Baxter, and Waytz (2013) posited that because money is used in free market exchanges, cues of money would lead people to justify and support the systems that allow those exchanges to take place. Hence, the authors predicted that money primes would boost system justification, social dominance, belief in a just world, and free market ideology, and found supportive evidence. Rohrer, Pashler, and Harris (2015) failed to replicate those effects. This article discusses the factors that predict priming effects, and particularly those pertinent to differences between Caruso et al. and Rohrer et al. Variations in a prime's meaning, the ease with which primed content comes to mind, the prime's motivational importance, and the ambiguity of the outcome situation influence the impact of the prime. Money priming experiments (totaling 165 to date, from 18 countries) point to at least 2 major effects. First, compared to neutral primes, people reminded of money are less interpersonally attuned. They are not prosocial, caring, or warm. They eschew interdependence. Second, people reminded of money shift into professional, business, and work mentality. They exert effort on challenging tasks, demonstrate good performance, and feel efficacious. Money priming is not the same as priming another popular means of exchange, credit cards, and can have bigger effects when there is an implied connection between the self and having money. The practical benefits of money have been studied by other disciplines for decades, and the time is now for psychologists to study the effects of merely being reminded of money.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e86-e93
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Business
  • Competence
  • Money
  • Priming
  • Prosocial


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