Video Shows How Flashing Lights Make Us More Inclined to Take Stupid Risks

That's not the only weird factor that affects our financial decision-making.

by James Dennin

People are irrational creatures which, of course, can make managing our money and preparing for the future a challenge, whether or not we’re bringing in the big bucks.

Were you aware, for example, that being in a tall building makes you more inclined to take bigger risks? It makes sense in a way, being lofty increases your sense of power. If poker night keeps sending you home with empty pockets, you might consider motioning for a change of venue to a place on the ground-floor. On the other hand, if people keep telling you you’re too timid, the argument is strong for springing for the penthouse.

That’s not the only strange psychological factor that can affect our financial decision-making. In fact, a recent study from researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada found that the flashing lights and jingles that are so ubiquitous in casinos encourage riskier decision making as well. Their findings were published earlier this week in JNeurosci, the journal for the Society for Neuroscience.

“While sound and light stimuli may seem harmless, we’re now understanding that these cues may bias attention and encourage risky decision-making,” explains Catharine Winstanley, the paper’s lead author, in a statement. “Using eye-tracker technology, we were able to see that people were paying less attention to information about the odds of winning on a particular gamble when money imagery and casino jingles accompanied the wins.”

If you're going to gamble, stick with the table games. 

Unsplash / Benoit Dare

Channel Weird Psychology Toward Money Greatness

Fortunately, there are also ways to trick ourselves into being smarter with our money, too. Some of them are delightfully weird. Just like flashing lights and sounds make us more impulsive with our money, for example, having to pee makes us better at resisting temptation.

It’s an effect that’s called inhibitory — ahem — spillover, and the concept is that when we have our guard up against one thing, like not peeing all over ourselves, our guard is also up against other unrelated things, for example making impulse purchases. Another study suggested that having to pee makes us better at lying, too.

The actual look and feel of our money might also affect how inclined we are to spend it, which is also very dumb if you think about it. A dollar is a dollar, after all, but if the dollar is all crumpled up, then we’re more likely to be willing to spend it. That study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research, and found that when money is more worn, we’re more likely to be reminded of how dirty and gross it is. Clean, crisp feels feel less contaminated.

That suggests that if you’re only spending money using crisp, fresh from the bank $20 bills, you’ll be more careful with your money. Or, better yet, take your dumb stupid brain out of the picture entirely and automate your finances entirely. We clearly can’t be trusted.

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