Money Gives Everybody Swagger, But It Makes Men Jerks, Study Finds

Money and dating study Money will boost your dating game. But that might be a bad thing.


Feeling Wealthy Gives You Romantic Confidence

How do money and love mix? That was the question that researchers at Beijing Normal University explored in a recent experiment.

To see how money affects romance, they “primed” a group of college students to make them feel either rich or poor. They wanted to see how their new feelings of wealth (or lack thereof) would make them behave, so they staged an encounter with a potential romantic partner. Things get weird here, because the researchers essentially orchestrated your worst catfishing nightmare come to life. They hired someone who was, shall we say, easy on the eyes, and planted that person in a public place for the participants to approach or shy away from.

At this point we’re imagining the researchers hiding in the bushes with binoculars, because they then watched the interaction to see how the participants reacted. They found that participants who believed they were wealthy were more likely to approach the nearby babe than those who believed they were poor.

These effects were observed for both men and women. Also, it should be noted that all of the participants were in long-term, monogamous relationships at the time. So there’s that. Maybe they were just innocently flirting, but the effect was clear: the participants who felt wealthy were also the ones who had the swagger to run a little game given the opportunity.

If You’re a Man, Money Might Turn You Into a Jerk

In a second experiment, the same researchers looked at how feelings of wealth changed the way that participants viewed their partners. To do this, they again “primed” the students to feel either rich or poor. They then asked them to provide a frank assessment of their significant other.

When the participants evaluated their partner’s physical attractiveness, unlike the other experiment, the effect the researchers observed broke down along gender lines. Men were more likely to be critical of their partner’s physical attractiveness if they felt wealthy, but this effect didn’t hold for the women, as noted by the researchers:

“The men who subjectively felt that they had relatively more money perceived a greater discrepancy between their ideal and their current partners in terms of physical appearance and were less satisfied with their partners than those who felt they had less money, but this effect did not occur in women.”

So basically, with the introduction of money, the men turned a little jerky. They became more critical of their partner’s physical traits and less satisfied with them.

To be fair, the differences in how money affected men and women were “significant” from a scientific perspective, but not extreme. (On something akin to a hot-or-not scale of one to ten, the wealthy-feeling men downgraded their partners by a single point.) But still, the money clearly went to their heads.

Other Research on Love and Money

The findings from the Beijing team are consistent with previous research exploring the effect of money on romance. A study from Singapore Management University, for instance, found that men who were made to feel wealthy raised their standards for romantic partners. Notably, the researchers were able to create this effect by simply letting the men hold a wad of cash. Seriously. The study participants were given a stack of bills (the equivalent of $2,100), and the men immediately demanded a higher level of attractiveness from potential dates. Women, on the other hand, did not.

Why Does Money Affect Men and Women Differently?

In their paper reporting on the study, the Beijing researchers proposed a couple of theories for why the men in their experiment turned choosy when they felt rich but the women didn’t. They hypothesized about romantic competition and sample size, but their main theory boils down to differences in “mate value,” which is essentially what makes a person attractive to potential partners.

For men, financial resources contribute to mate value, but a woman’s mate value depends more on physical characteristics than wealth, the researchers said. This means that men who feel wealthy view themselves as more attractive to potential partners, which would give them cause to be more selective. Women who become wealthy, on the other hand, don’t receive such a boost in mate value, and thus don’t have a good reason to be more selective. (Regardless, we’d argue that financial literacy is good for everybody.)

But all of this doesn’t mean that women aren’t susceptible to jerky-ness if their mate value gets a boost. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Texas found that women who have higher mate value can be just as picky when it comes to their love life. So even though men aren’t off the hook, the results of the Beijing study might speak to a trait that’s more accurately described as human than male.


What do you think? Has money ever gone to your head? Tweet to us at @OppUniversity and let us know!