This certainly is a strong proposition. It was coined by Prof. Dr. Eva Walther from the University of Trier as part of lecture on “Money & Love” during the first Conference of the German Association for Research in Positive Psychology. Yet, it may grounded in solid research. Here´s the story:
First, there´s some research that both social support and money can act as a buffer for pain – or the anticipation of pain. So, when people expect to experience painful life events, they will draw on social support (= their friends and loved ones) to guard themselves against or alleviate this unpleasant emotion. Yet, while social capital is the more natural (primary) defense mechanism, money is seen as a secondary one that mainly comes into play when the primary one doesn’t work. Here´s a quote from the Zhou/Gao article listed below:
First, anticipation of pain heightens the desire for social support as well as the desire for money. Second, both social support and money reminders alleviate pain, whereas social exclusion and monetary loss result in an upsurge of pain awareness. In our view, social support is the primary defense against pain and the reliance on money may result from the failure of social support to accomplish its pain-buffering goal.
In short, and a bit overgeneralized: When people cannot lean on social support to fulfill their emotional needs, they will turn to money to do the job.
Second, research finds that money-seeking may be linked to having an avoidant attachment orientation (using the Bowlby typology). This finding lends some credibility to the idea that money acts as a substitute for human bonding – as people with an avoidant attachment style may find it harder to attain all the emotional comfort they need in stressful situations.
So, just in case you´re striving for that first million $: It could very well be you´re just looking for a friend…
- Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2008). “Can’t buy me love”: An attachment perspective on social support and money as psychological buffers. Psychological Inquiry, 19(3-4), 167-173.
- Zhou, X., & Gao, D. G. (2008). Social support and money as pain management mechanisms. Psychological Inquiry, 19(3-4), 127-144.