Are all men dogs as they say? A fairly short NHL hockey player was always escorting vastly taller super-model types to the hottest New York soirees. When asked by an unusually frank fan how a short hockey player was so successful with the tallest beauties in the city, the player is alleged to have responded, “I’m a lot taller when I stand on my wallet.” To many, the attraction of beautiful women to older and less-than-gorgeous-waist-enhanced men of wealth or “boy-toys” hanging tightly to the arm of a wealthy-but-seriously-older matron is simply shallow gold-digging, a cut barely above simple prostitution. But what if money itself triggered a lustful “want” reaction that genuinely stimulates a carnal appetite? What if the attraction is real? What if people really drool when they think about or see pictures of money?
That’s the question that Kellogg (Northwestern University’s School of Business) Assistant Marketing Professor David Gal posited as he tested his subjects on their bodily reactions to money. The abstract of his study, reported in the current Journal of Consumer Research (Vol. 38, April 2012), entitled A Mouth-Watering Prospect: Salivation to Material Reward: “The term ‘hunger’ and terms referring to its physiological correlates, notably ‘salivation,’ are used to refer to desire for material rewards across languages and cultures. Is such usage is ‘merely metaphorical,’ or can exposure to material reward cues evoke a salivary response? Results of an experiment show that individuals salivate to money when induced to experience a low power state but not when induced to experience a high power state. A second experiment shows that men salivate to sports cars when primed with a mating goal but not in a control condition. These findings suggest that salivary secretion is stimulated by material rewards in the presence of a highly active goal to obtain the rewards and that the motivation to acquire material rewards might more closely resemble physiological hunger than previously assumed.”
The September 16th Huffington Post tells us how these experiments worked: “For the pictures-of-money experiment, Gal first primed the students by having them write about either a time when they felt powerful or a time when they felt powerless… The students who'd been made to feel powerless, it turned out, produced much more saliva when shown pictures of money, suggesting that at some level they were more focused on the question of how they might gain power.
“Similarly, Gal asked one group of men to imagine going to the barber, while he showed pictures of attractive women to another group of men and asked them which ones they'd like to date. He then showed both groups pictures of expensive sports cars. One group salivated more than the other when looking at the cars -- the men who'd been primed to think about dating… According to Gal, the findings suggest that thinking about money and luxury goods activates the same neurological reward system as thinking about anything else desirable -- food, for example, or mating… Social psychologists have long thought that many people, whether consciously or unconsciously, want to acquire money not for the financial security it brings, but because it suggests power and may increase one's sexual desirability.” You gotta admit, life is a tad easier if you don’t have to worry about the bills, but are we just shallow or genuinely turned on in those relationships.
I’m Peter Dekom, and I truly attempted to say, “woof,” but my wife won’t let me!