Recently in the sister blog . . . Arber Tasimi and his coauthor write:
Although traditional economic models posit that money is fungible, psychological research abounds with examples that deviate from this assumption. Across eight experiments, we provide evidence that people construe physical currency as carrying traces of its moral history. In Experiments 1 and 2, people report being less likely to want money with negative moral history (i.e., stolen money). Experiments 3–5 provide evidence against an alternative account that people’s judgments merely reflect beliefs about the consequences of accepting stolen money rather than moral sensitivity. Experiment 6 examines whether an aversion to stolen money may reflect con- tamination concerns, and Experiment 7 indicates that people report they would donate stolen money, thereby counteracting its negative history with a positive act. Finally, Experiment 8 demonstrates that, even in their recall of actual events, people report a reduced tendency to accept tainted money. Altogether, these findings suggest a robust tendency to evaluate money based on its moral history, even though it is designed to participate in exchanges that effectively erase its origins.
I’m not a big fan of the graphs in this paper (and don’t get me started on the tables!), but the experiments are great. I love this stuff.