Ripping Up Money - The Psychological Consequences
    By Martin Gardiner | February 4th 2013 10:19 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    What happens in our brain when we see banknotes being ripped up? Or, put another way, “Is our attitude to money like that to any other tool even though its use is symbolic and is not implemented in its physical structure?” To find out, the researchers from the Center of Functionally Integrative Neurosciences at Aarhus, Denmark, and the Center for Cognitive Science,  Turin, Italy, asked experimental subjects to watch banknotes being destroyed whist undergoing a brain scan.

    “Knowledge of the functional use of concrete tools, such as hammers or screwdrivers, has been associated with activation of a left hemisphere network including the posterior temporal cortex, supramarginal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, and lateral precuneus. Here we demonstrate that observing bank notes being cut up or torn, a critical violation of their function, elicits activation within the same temporo-parietal network.”

    - say the research team. And, moreover, the study not only showed that observer’s brains register a response when seeing money destroyed, but also that the strength of the response varies according to the amount.

    “… this activation is the greater the higher the value of the banknote.”

    How the brain responds to the destruction of money is published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, Vol 4(1), Feb 2011, 1-10.

    Note: Attention researchers: Destroying banknotes may be illegal in some countries:


    It just shows how dependant we are on money as humans; and how it forms part of our resources to survive. It's pretty terrible when you think about it...

    Money is now seen as a key asset in survival, without it one would be homeless and possibly starve. These pieces of paper now almost entirely dictate or lives. We spend our days earning them just to turn around and spend them. And the pure thought of just ripping these pieces of paper up is equivalent to just doing all of your hard earned work for free no return at all. Interesting to think about.

    Gerhard Adam
    As mentioned, money represents "goods and services" within our society.  However, it shouldn't be surprising that one has a strong reaction, since it is our belief in this role of money that allows it to be used in economies.  One must have "faith" in the currency to represent a fair exchange for "goods and services" so it follows that we would have a strong reaction to watching it destroyed.

    I would expect this effect to vary in accordance with how familiar [or how valuable] a particular currency that is being destroyed.
    Mundus vult decipi