One of the many hurdles we have to overcome in understanding our own behavior is being able to recognize life-long assumptions about the world.
You, and I, grew up with money. As children it was given to us as coins: playthings, distractions, allowance, objects of art. It’s always been a part of our lives, as it was for our grandparents, and their grandparents before them.
It wasn’t always so. Someone, a long long time ago, invented money. Money is what psychologists call a secondary reinforcer. It represents something else. In our case, money may represent the work you do for your company. You and the company agreed that for every hour you work, you receive some money.
In the olden times, you received this money in physical form. Then we invented checks. Then we invented electronic money. This electronic money doesn’t even really exist. We only know that it’s there because of the ones and zeroes a computer spits out when we ask it the question, “how much is in my account.”
As students of behavior we have to always remember that money isn’t real. We have to understand that it was invented as a convenient mechanism to help relate “value.” How does the value of my labor compare to the value of that kumquat you have found? How does the value of my face relate to the value of a video advertisement that can make millions of people want to buy your lipstick?
Value is the real, underlying behavioral quality that money tries to deal with. Value is what is truly important, and is what we should be discussing. A life with value has no need of money.
And you can take that to the bank.