Theo Wehner on Money:critical



Roundtabel discussions

For years, the Sunflower Foundation has hosted roundtable discussions several times a year. Colleagues get together from quite diverse disciplines – social anthropology, economics, and I’m the industrial psychologist. We meet to discuss money. That is, to look at money critically. Not to criticize it but to probe ideas about money critically.

Money shapes our perceptions

It’s generally agreed that money can determine how we think. But with a little experiment I’d like to show that money not only shapes our thinking but our perceptions, too.

The experiment was devised by a social psychologist back in the 1980s. It couldn’t be simpler. Participants were asked to estimate the size of a coin. We could repeat the test today and take a Swiss five-franc coin as our subject. A large number of people offer their estimates. No one guesses the precise diameter of the coin. Some are high, others low. Dividing our participants according to their wealth, a clear trend emerges: Less affluent people guess the five-franc coin is larger than do more affluent participants.


This gap is especially evident among younger people. For less affluent youth, the five-franc coin has more subjective value, opens up more possibilities, than it does for wealthier peers. This experiment shows that our perception of money is influenced less by its objective significance and more by we think we can do with it. 


Themes like this are explored in Sunflower’s roundtable discussions with an interdisciplinary and occasionally cross-disciplinary approach.

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