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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22-26

Money, psychology, and neuroeconomics

Department of Psychiatry, Hospital for Mental Health, Vadodara, Gujarat, India

Date of Submission30-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance05-Jul-2022
Date of Web Publication03-Feb-2023

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Hitesh Chandrakant Sheth
Department of Psychiatry, Hospital for Mental Health, Opposite Jivan Bharti School, Karelibaug, Vadodara - 390 018, Gujarat
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jacs.jacs_35_21

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Money is one of the principal forces acting on human beings that dictate conscious and unconscious actions. However, because of its tendency to bring the evil propensities in human beings to the fore, it is also one of the most maligned forces in human history. This study aims to know the real nature of money and the number of factors that determine a man's attitude towards money. A study of various kinds of literature like; journals, books, magazines, internet materials, and articles on neuropsychology, were done to compare the good and bad effects, money exerts on human lives. Results showed that there are many factors such as greed, insecurity, and inner poverty, as well as genetic and neuropsychological causes that impel men to chase power, position, and outer prosperity. However, such wealth, when earned through unfair means, often breeds insecurity and misery for a man as well as for society at large, while the same wealth, when acquired through fair means helps man to fulfill the ultimate goals of human life, namely enjoyment, and self-actualization. The study concludes by stating that money, by its nature, is neither a good nor an evil force. In fact, wealth creation without violating the moral codes is holy labor and a duty that helps humans, materially, psychologically, spiritually, and neuropsychologically, to achieve lofty aims in their life and also benefits humanity in general.

Keywords: Money, neureconomics, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology

How to cite this article:
Sheth HC. Money, psychology, and neuroeconomics. J Appl Conscious Stud 2023;11:22-6

How to cite this URL:
Sheth HC. Money, psychology, and neuroeconomics. J Appl Conscious Stud [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Oct 4];11:22-6. Available from: http://www.jacsonline.in/text.asp?2023/11/1/22/369132

  Introduction Top

Money is the libidinal energy of life that not only makes the world go round but also makes a mind go round because it is a force that gives wings to relationships, motives, fancies, thoughts, and desires. Money in the form of currency represents wealth and helps us to exchange, store, and distribute it in easy ways. Money in popular usage can also be understood as currency, in physical or electronic form, that helps us to transact products, labor, and resources. However, this definition only describes the outer wealth, measured by gross domestic product while excluding the inner attributes of wealth such as peace, happiness, and contentment, measured by Gross National Happiness. History has witnessed fratricides, homicides, and deadly wars so that men can get control over power and wealth. Although the wealth has been demonized by most prophets and the saints alike, it is just a form of power that like many powers can be used for advancing or stemming the progress of humanity. For Indian spirituality, money was never an enigma or puzzle to be solved. It was always one of the goals of human life. First was धर्म(Dharmaor spirituality), second was अर्म (Artha or money), third was कार (Kama or enjoyment), and fourth was रोक्ष (Moksha or liberation).

  Money in Ancient Legends Top

Money is an archetypal reality. Archetypes are symbolic primitive images inherited from the ancestors and supposed to be held in the “Collective Unconscious” shared by the humankind (Jung, 1992). The goddess Lakshmi, like the Greek goddess Tyche and the Roman goddess Fortuna, is an archetype of abundance, abundance not only of the material wealth and prosperity but also of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Lakshmi means both material and spiritual wealth (Parasarthy, 1983). At the physical level, she is an abundance in prosperity, progenies, and power (Dhana Lakshmi, Dhanaya Lakshmi, Santana Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi − a goddess flanked by elephants, who bestows the trait of gracefulness seen in the elephants). At the mental level, she is patience, strength, courage, valor, and victory (Dhairya/Veera Lakshmi and Jaya/Vijay Lakshmi). At the spiritual level, she is myriad of yogic powers, wisdom, selflessness, kindness, discipline, and enlightenment (Adi/Maha Lakshmi and Vidya Lakshmi).

Fortuna and Lakshmi also came to represent the capriciousness, fickleness, and arbitrariness of human life. According to Indian mythology Sri Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is always accompanied by her elder sister (Alakshmi or Eris-the Greek goddess of discord), which is strife, quarrels, and anxiety personified. Money, as an archetypal symbol, is devilishly divine because it always attracts crisis, which is potentially if not actually overwhelming and destructive (Hillman et al., 1982). Although money breeds strife, jealousy and war, her good aspects are welcome to stay in life and her bad aspect is urged to leave from its existence (Rig-Veda, n.d.).

The archetype of Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi is manifested when harmony and beauty of the mind and soul are expressed in every outward act and movement and the same is repelled when harmony and beauty are replaced by selfishness, hatred, jealousy, envy, strife, ascetic bareness, and harshness (Sri Aurobindo, 1928). Thus, instead of associating wealth with evil and rejecting it in toto, the goddess is worshipped for an enlightened mind (Vidya Lakshmi) and wisdom. A state of enlightenment not only swallows up the ignorance but also destroys its off springs, namely, distress and strife, thus driving away Alakshmi and making room for Lakshmi's wealth and wisdom and her consort Vishnu (an archetype of infinity)'s peace for a long duration.

  Fortune as Filthy Lucre Top

Money is a magnet that attracts all forms of life issues and also a screen onto which almost any pattern of thinking can be projected (Trachtman, 1999). Since ancient times, it was observed that money, in many cases, brings the worst out of human beings, so it was equated with the feces, thought to be as disgusting as the money.

In psychology also, money is compared with faeces and the money − feces equilibrium is a known psychological formulation in psychiatry. The equation of money with the feces turns it into “filthy lucre” and its possessor to “stinking rich.” Wherever the old way of thinking was prevalent or is prevalent, its civilization has put gold and faeces side by side in its stories, folklores, myths, superstitions, unconscious thinking, and dreams (Freud, 1959). In Germany, the officers who print money were known as Ducatscheisser or shitters of ducats, and such minted gold or silver ducats were used as the trade coins in Europe (Dundes, 1987).

Freud listed “Parsimony,” among the major traits of obsessional personality and traced its origin to the pleasure a child felt in retaining feces in the anal phase of psychosexual development. For children, the feces is the first “savings” which they heap, hold, and give as a gift to the people they love. As the children age, this same pleasure is gradually sublimated to pleasure in collecting pebbles and marbles and finally to gold and money (Ferenczi, 1950). However, human cannot live by bread alone; he also has some higher needs to satisfy his spiritual hunger. Moreover, when the basic needs and safety needs of human are satisfied from among the hierarchy of various needs, he is driven to fulfil his higher need like a need to have self-actualization (Maslow, 1967). Thus, he sublimates the pleasure of collecting money to some higher spiritual pleasure-a pleasure of self-realization that is neither diminished by the spending spree nor stolen by a thief and for which he might put all his worldly possessions at stake (Mirabai, n.d.).

  Factors that Drive Money Chase Top

There is no security in life. On this bubble called earth, any moment death, disease, or a disaster can snuff out life from us. Whatever defense mechanisms men use, these facts are always in his unconscious mind that Time wipes out lives, civilizations, and species without mercy. To allay the feeling of insecurity, people try to build a wall of money on the sand of impermanence to ward off the tsunamis of disasters. However, the money, which is hoarded to alleviate a sense of insecurity itself, engenders a sense of insecurity. The reason is simple, if most of the people on the earth are after money, then the minority who own it would be persecuted for their coveted possessions by the deprived, poor, and desolate. Still, the people chase wealth because it gives them the illusive control to influence things, persons, and the outcome of events. A person, however rich, would always have an inner desire that his relatives, friends, and the world love him for a person he is, not for his riches or possessions. However, the irony is, a rich man has to fear not only government, thieves or relatives, but he also has to fear his own son (Chinmayananda, 2013).

However, it is not only a sense of security that drives people to run after the money, sometimes a passion to acquire money is due to the feeling of superiority (as in narcissistic disorder) and sometimes due to the feeling of inferiority (psychical overcompensation for underlying inferiority). Often the people who cannot love persons start loving money because to love the money means to love and possess the lifeless things and the more one indulges in such behavior, the more one can forget about the living persons that needed to be loved (Rajneesh, 1976).

The three things, love of money, love of money-making, and sadistic love of power, are very similar to dominant traits of the anal-sadistic character (Winslow, 1986). Wealth, such as beauty, strength, and political position, is basically a mechanism for power, which takes away the constraints of society and frees people to act according to their dominant desires. Power strips people not only of inhibitions but also increases risks taking behavior, feeling of entitlement, and invulnerability. It also makes people less empathetic and able to see other perspectives (Keltner, 2017). Such people suffer initially while earning wealth, then they suffer while guarding it, and eventually, they suffer while losing it (Chang, 1995).

  Money from Psychological Perspectives Top

A human driven by a greed for money is the slave of his passion and because of this slavery, he is the sufferer and under the bondage of his passion (From, 1957). However, this greed to accumulate excessive money, power, and possessions arises from inner poverty and emptiness within a human (Krishnamurti, 2009).

The greed originates from oral frustration in which one does not only want the good milk from the good breast, but the total control over the good breast itself, a source of sustenance, comfort, and happiness, so it can be used, misused and exploited at will (Gomez, 1997). The same greed when expressed by a parsimonious human, fixated at the anal stage, makes him hoard the money in a way he was withholding his feces in his childhood. The human fixated at the phallic stage, having a castration complex, may hoard or collect the objects, which in his unconscious mind represent the phallus for him (Subkowski, 2006). Such, wealth earned because of excessive greed has been seen to have corrupting effects on the mind because it changes fidelity into infidelity, love into hate, and virtue into vice (Karl, 1959).

Those who have all the things, a human can ever dream of to possess, concluded that if one chases money for happiness, then that chase always ends in vain, because the wealth, along with the beauty and fame is not only an obstacle to happiness, but it also fails to buy a life or solve existential conundrums vexing the human minds (Thorpe, 2005; Chilton, 2017; Hombach, 2010).

  Money from Renunciates Perspectives Top

Spiritual views about money were often colored with skepticism. In ancient Mahabharata, when Kali (personification of a degraded time) asked king Parikshitkh where should he stay in Kaliyug (a period in which wickedness is at its peak and righteousness stands on a single leg instead of its usual four legs). The King replied that he should stay in four places, namely wealth, gambling, debauchery, and alcoholism. In India, in ancient times as well as in recent times, the first thing when the person becomes a monk was to renounce the money. Gold was seen as evil and the obstacle to self-realization, as it was thought that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (The Holy Bible, 1990, Matthew 19:24). For the same reason, the Buddha in search of enlightenment gave up the rich life of a prince and went to the forest to find the truth.

  Money from Spiritual Perspective Top

According to Hindu philosophy, God has six attributes such as ज्ञान (Jnana or wisdom), बल (Bala or strength), ऐश्वर्य (Aishwaryaor divine powers), वीर्य (Virya or valor), शक्ति (shakti or energy), and तेजस (tejas or effulgence). Hence, wealth is one of the attributes of God. All the gods of Hinduism live in opulence and can grant affluence bountifully (Jayaram, n.d.). Hindus, who literally worship wealth on a particular day (Dhanteras), view the wealth as one of the manifestations of the divine, to be earned, enjoyed, and spend on the welfare of others. Wealth becomes evil only when it is earned through foul means and with an intention to harm society. Lakshmi (लक्ष्मी) in the real sense is the Vedic science of wealth that enables people to achieve the goals (लक्ष्य or Lakshya) of material and spiritual prosperity, at both outer and inner levels of life (Prabhu, 2017). Vedic teachings define four primary objectives of human life: Dharma (Duty), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire), and Moksha (Liberation), to be pursued in that order. Thus, for householders, earning wealth (Artha), and following moral principles are considered one of the chief duties of human life (Koller, 1968).

Thus, man usually starts by pursuing outer wealth, and gradually as he matures, he may change his focus of life to achieve Moksha or rich inner life of fullness, joy, and liberation. Moreover, by relentless search, when a human finds a treasure of the inner kingdom of heaven in a field of life, he hides it again and sells all he has, just to buy that field (The Holy Bible, 1990, Matthew, 13:44). For such a human with gratitude, a pebble, stone, and gold are the same thing or maybe finding that inner joy makes man indifferent to material wealth (Sivananda, 1986). That inner contentment, joy, peace, and gratitude have been described as the highest wealth, getting which all other wealth seems worthless like a clod (Buddharahhita, 1985).

Such a man living in a state of gratitude may not renounce the wealth, but instead, act as a trustee and use the wealth as a divine gift for the upliftment of the world (Sri Aurobindo, 1972; Gandhi, 1968). He may earn wealth as by a hundred hands and disburse by a thousand (Griffith, 2019). Moreover, such a just distribution of wealth by the king in ancient Dwarka, instead of spreading poverty, created a system of “Capitalistic Communism”, whereby the entire subjects in his kingdom were living the rich, lavish, and opulent life (Vyasa, 1970).

Even when seen from the psychological point of view, money is a necessity because it prevents the heavenward flight of the soul in something abstract and ties it to the harsh, slippery, and concrete facts of the world-the facts that are annoying and limiting but still necessary to keep the world moving (Hillman et al., 1982).

  Money from Neuropsycholgical Perspective Top

Neuroeconomics is a science that studies how the “economic activities” of the men are influenced by the neural activities in the brain. Although behaviors such as avarice and altruism appear to be determined by the psychological causes and seem to be in volitional control, these behaviors are hard-wired in the brain partially, have neuropsychological underpinnings, and also influenced by a person's DNA script as well as by the microbiota (trillions of microorganisms) residing in the human gut. In normal person, the drive to collect or earn would be initiated by the limbic system and would be modulated by the prefrontal neural system in the way, a person believes would generate a reward in socially acceptable ways (Anderson et al., 2005). At the genetic level, a person's handling of money in selfish (greedily) or selfless (altruistic) way is determined by Arginine Vasopressin 1 (AVPR1) AVPR1a gene's intron (a long stretch of noncoding DNA) length, with a larger variant associated with selfish behavior and shorter version associated with large-heartedness (Nishina et al., 2019). At the hormonal level, chasing the money is addictive because while conferring the trappings of power and associated high social status, it releases the same dopamine as a chemical signal in the brain reward system (ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens, Amygdala, and sublenticular extended amygdala) that is released by cocaine use, chocolate, sex, and food (Breiter et al., 2001). Not only the acquisition of money activates the brain reward system, but the distribution of the money in charitable activity also activates the same neural system (Hubbard et al., 2016). In addition, the gut microbiota, a part of the gut microbiota brain axis, that influences many of man's behavior, may induce altruistic behavior in him (Lewin-Epstein et al., 2017; Sheth, 2021).

  Conclusion Top

One may be tempted to reach to the conclusion that if there is no money, there would not be any problems. However, to reject money for the prickly problems it brings is akin to rejecting the roses for their accompanying thorns. The creation of wealth is a beautiful act, but the problem happens if money is loved for its own sake while harming the interest of society and its people. The holy labor of “Wealth Creation,” without violating the moral codes, helps men materially, psychologically, spiritually, and neuropsychologically. Materially, it helps men to fulfil his various duties and desires; psychologically, it prevents the flight of men's minds in ethereal realms and keeps it grounded to the harsh realities of the world; spiritually, it helps men to fulfil his obligation toward the society by empowering him for the welfare activities, and neuropsychologically, it rewards him with happiness. Money, when earned by fair means help a human to fulfil his various needs as well as the needs of society by ensuring the equitable distribution of wealth. And, at last, while fulfilling his worldly needs, the same man can effortlessly march toward the highest goal of a human endeavor, namely self-actualization or self-realization.

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