Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Authors' Response

Money: Motivation, metaphors, and mores

Stephen E. G. Lea a1 and Paul Webley a1
a1 University of Exeter, School of Psychology, Washington Singer Laboratories, Exeter EX4 4QG, United Kingdom.

Article author query
lea se   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
webley p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Our response amplifies our case that money is best seen as both a drug and a tool. Some commentators challenge our core assumptions: In this response we, therefore, explain in more detail why we assume that money is an exceptionally strong motivator, and that a biological explanation of money motivation is required. We also provide evidence to support those assumptions. Other commentators criticise our use of the drug metaphor, particularly arguing that it is empirically empty; and in our response we seek to show how it can be submitted to test – aided by some commentaries which suggest such tests. In addition, we explain, with evidence, why we do not think that the notion of money as a generalised conditioned reinforcer provides a satisfactory alternative to the tool/drug account. The largest group of commentaries suggests alternative instincts on which the drug-like effects of money might be based, other than the reciprocation and play instincts we propose; in our response, we explain why we still prefer our original proposals, but we accept that alternative or additional instincts may indeed underlie money motivation. A final group of commentaries carries the argument further, suggesting extensions to the tool/drug model, in ways with which we are broadly in sympathy. The purpose of the tool and drug metaphors is to encourage reflection on the biological origins of money motivation, and to that extent at least we believe that they have succeeded.

(Published Online April 5 2006)