Most readers will recognize the shameless adaptation of the line made famous from the movie, Jerry McGuire, and specifically the scene in the movie where sports agent Jerry McGuire (played by a then much younger Tom Cruise) had Cuba Gooding’s character literally bouncing off the walls in anticipation of a big financial payday, as a newly arrived sports personality in professional football.
The topic of Bitcoins seemed like the perfect inaugural subject, given the recent news around the emergent cryptocurrency, and the topic also seemed to dovetail nicely with my “shadowy” and now quite lengthy employment affiliation . . . which may (or may not) involve cryptography.
For the uninitiated, cryptocurrencies, and specifically Bitcoins, are a form of virtual currency, which is not linked to any national or reserve currency. Consequently, cryptocurrencies can be used by individuals to conduct online transactions for goods and services, and to exchange money across borders, but without the need to involve banks, credit cards, or other third-party providers.
Connecting the dots between the movie Jerry McGuire and cryptocurrencies got me reflecting on the motivational effects of money. It is well-demonstrated through empirical research that money does have the effect of being a real incentive and a true motivator for people. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that people will change their behavior (both positively and negatively) for money, even to the point of changing their behavior in the physical presence of money. And in controlled experiments, people have shown significant changes in behavioral responses at even the mention of money, for as long as 30 minutes prior to being asked to perform a series of puzzles and tasks.
So, clearly the concept or idea of money can have a dramatic affect on human beings, both physiologically and psychologically.
Circling back to Bitcoins, I began to wonder about whether these same effects of money are shifting or possibly being diluted with the changes that have occurred with regard to money, especially in its forms, use and transfer. Nowadays, many people rarely even see their money, at least not in the more traditional form of actual currency. The widespread introduction of direct deposit beginning in the 80’s eliminated the need to pick-up and deposit your paycheck at the bank. The use and acceptance of debit and credit cards has all but removed the need to even carry cash. Likewise, electronic bill paying services and the “virtual wallets” on smartphones have reduced the need to write checks, except for maybe one or two per month. And the popularity of gift cards have all but made extinct the birthday cards from dear Aunt Charlotte, which always included the eagerly awaited, crisp, new $5 dollar bill (by the way, thank you Aunt Charlotte, since I forgot to send a thank you note last year . . .).
I know much of the foundational upstream research regarding the effects of money on people and their behavior has been conducted over the last several decades, with some of the newer research being conducted in the last ten years. However, I’ve not seen much research citing the effects of non-currency, electronic forms of money on people’s behavior and physiology. Maybe the underlying principles remain unchanged regardless what form money and wealth take, as long as it can still be readily exchanged for the things we need and want.
I’m not sure about the rest of you, but when it comes down to a choice between the gift card from Aunt Charlotte and the crisp, new $5 dollar bill – I’ll take the $5 dollar bill every time.
Everyone probably has a different perspective. What's yours?
Chris Dobyns, CCP, CBP, is Manager of the Office of Human Resource Strategies for one of the largest U.S. intelligence agencies. The Office of Human Resource Strategies is responsible for compensation and incentives, occupational structure, recognition and rewards, HR policy, and human capital program evaluation and assessment for his Agency. Chris has worked in the area of compensation for more than 30 years, and has been employed in various compensation-related positions by a number of large, private sector companies including, Sears, Roebuck, Arizona Public Service and Westinghouse Savannah River Company.
Creative Commons image "Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin" by antanacoins