The Best Things in Life are Free? Part 2

After collecting and analyzing our data, we have discovered two interesting findings. Although only one of these findings is statistically significant, the other is so close to being significant that it merits mentioning and further study with a larger sample size.

Analyses: An analysis of variance (ANOVA) test was performed on the scores of the eleven psychological needs we were studying. The test was performed on results of the surveys asking participants to think of a future satisfying event, as well as those asking participants to imagine an upcoming unsatisfying event. The test focused on whether the scores for any of the eleven psychological needs were affected by the pictures of money, either blurred or clear, included in the surveys.

Results: Participants exposed to clear images of money were more likely to anticipate unsatisfying events in which their needs for autonomy were not met. Although, technically, this finding was not statistically significant (p = .070), it is so close to the threshold of p = .05, which indicates a significant finding, that we feel that this result is important to mention and to pursue in subsequent studies.  The full statistical results for this need are as follows: F (1,27) = 3.56, p = .070.

The only statistically significant finding of our analysis was that people exposed to the clear image of money were much more likely to report anticipating unsatisfying events in which their monetary needs were not met. The full results of this ANOVA test in are as follows: F (1,25) = 6.36, p = .019.

Discussion (and Conclusions): The finding that participants exposed to clear images of money were more likely to anticipate events in which their needs for autonomy were not met has an interesting implication. Although this finding is not statistically significant, it is close enough to the threshold of significance that we think it merits further study. The result that people who were exposed to clear images of money anticipated not having their needs for autonomy met in future unsatisfying events seems to indicate that, when exposed to a visual cue of money, people are more likely to anticipate feelings of lack of control and autonomy in their future.

The finding that people exposed to clear images of money were more likely to anticipate unsatisfying events in which their monetary needs were not met seems to indicate that people who see money are prone to associate future unsatisfying events with not having enough money. Although an event can be unsatisfying even without a lack of money, it is interesting that people exposed to a visual cue of money tended to associate a dearth of money with dissatisfaction. A seemingly straightforward conclusion that can be drawn from this result is that people who see money want money, and anticipate unhappiness if they do not get that money.

The money cue had no statistically significant effect on any of the other eleven psychological needs addressed in this study, nor did it affect any of the answers to the questions associated with life satisfaction.

The Best Things in Life Are Free?

Our summer project aims to study the effect of the implication of monetary wealth on one’s perceived life satisfaction. Previous studies have shown that a wide diversity of people associate a surprisingly consistent list of psychological needs with particularly satisfying events. Other research has indicated that the mere thought of money can encumber a person’s ability to savor the pleasures in his or her life. In this study we will expose some participants to an indication of monetary wealth (an image of cash), and record whether the exposure affects the participants’ ability to conjure up satisfying events and the psychological needs associated with them.

We hope to learn whether money, far from being the source of all happiness, actually breeds discontent. If the results of previous studies are supported by our own, it would indicate that money, or even the thought of it, tends to reduce one’s ability to appreciate whatever luxuries are currently available. Money, as it is understood in our culture, is both a measure of success and a means of achieving happiness. If, as previous studies indicate, money actually impedes one’s ability to appreciate the pleasures available to him or her, and thus interferes with the attainment of happiness, then an interesting question arises: Is monetary wealth really a goal worth striving for?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have included some pertinent information regarding (a) the purpose of the study, (b) the characteristics of the research participants, and (c) the methods and procedures we will be using.

Purpose of the Study: Research to determine the relative importance of 11 hypothesized psychological needs during self (participant)-defined satisfying future events, and their relationships to money and satisfaction with life.

Characteristics of Research Participants: Participants will be college students. The total N will be 200-210. The anticipated age range is 18-35 years old. No prospective participants will be excluded based on age, sex, ethnic background, or health status.

Methods and Procedures: The design is survey-based. Students will receive a written Informed Consent to read and sign if they agree to participate. They will be asked to detach this signed sheet and these will be collected separately (to ensure anonymity) while they complete the survey. Half of the subjects will receive packets that begin with a picture of a stack of $100.00 bills. The other half will receive the same image, but with the money blurred beyond recognition. All will be told to disregard this page and to go on to the next page. Next, the survey itself consists of two published self-report questionnaires: (1) The Satisfying Events Questionnaire, (2) The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and (3) a brief set of 6 demographic questions.