Toward a Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue About the Meanings of Money

ABSTRACT - To encourage cross-disciplinary research and dialogue about consumer behavior in general and the social meanings of money in particular, we tried to extract a set of factors that would match a four-part typology used by many influential psychoanalysts. In existing interview data on a representative sample of the U. S. adult population, we found two bipolar factors which, when crossed as Cartesian coordinates, describe four categories that match the psychoanalytic typology and demonstrate considerable convergent and divergent validity. We discuss further steps toward a synthesis of empiricist and rationalist epistemologies in the humanities, social sciences, and biological sciences.


Seounmi Youn and Kenneth O. Doyle (1999) ,"Toward a Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue About the Meanings of Money", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 431-438.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Pages 431-438


Seounmi Youn, University of Minnesota

Kenneth O. Doyle, University of Minnesota


To encourage cross-disciplinary research and dialogue about consumer behavior in general and the social meanings of money in particular, we tried to extract a set of factors that would match a four-part typology used by many influential psychoanalysts. In existing interview data on a representative sample of the U. S. adult population, we found two bipolar factors which, when crossed as Cartesian coordinates, describe four categories that match the psychoanalytic typology and demonstrate considerable convergent and divergent validity. We discuss further steps toward a synthesis of empiricist and rationalist epistemologies in the humanities, social sciences, and biological sciences.

This paper has two purposes. The first is to help bridge some of the old divides that separate our various epistemologies and disciplines, and which therefore interfere with our understanding of life in general and consumer behavior in particular. The second is to encourage research into a topic that, despite its ubiquity, has received relatively little attention from scholarsCthe social meanings of money.

As we all learned in graduate school, our preferred "ways of knowing," our epistemologies, vary on a continuum from empiricist to rationalist, in which the former is characterized by more objective, quantitative methods, e.g., Galton’s and Thurstone’s, the latter by more subjective and qualitative ones, e.g., Spinoza’s and Freud’s. Recently "critical" has been added to the lexicon, to describe methods and values still further from the empiricist tradition.

The empiricist/rationalist dialectic occurs not only across disciplines (engineering versus the humanities, for example), but within disciplines as well. Some social science disciplinesCarguablyCare of an especially empiricist bent (e.g., economics), some are chiefly rationalist (e.g., anthropology), and some comprise large components of both inclinations (e.g., sociology, psychology).

Relationships between people of empiricist and rationalist persuasion range from benign neglect to open hostility, for reasons that surely include differences in vocabulary and research style, and may also include differences in personal and professional values, perhaps even differences in personality.

In our own disciplineCpsychologyCone of the clearest instances of this dialectic is psychoanalysis versus psychometrics. Psychoanalysis is the body of knowledge and thought that derives from Freud and his close associates, and concentrates on psychic dynamics and motivation; psychometrics is the application of mathematics to mental testing. These sub-disciplines differ radically in vocabulary, research methods, and practitioner values. They share a common interest in covariation and structure, however, expressed in psychoanalysis as "typologies," in psychometrics as "dimensions of personality." This common interest may be the key to an area of rapprochement.

For this paper, we identify in the psychoanalytic literature a set of human types widely employed by influential practitioners and theorists, and try to match to it a set of empirically derived factors. Our domain for this investigation is one small corner of consumer psychology that seems to be attracting more attention of late, namely the social meanings of money and property.

Down the ages and around the world, scholars from many disciplines, using many different methods, have had things to say about the social meanings of money and property. In the humanities, lawgivers, religious leaders, and philosophers (ethicians) have employed inductive or deductive logic to describe acceptable and unacceptable behaviors with regard to money and property, e.g., "Thou shalt not steal" (DiGaetani, 1994; Shell, 1982; Lamb, 1992; Doyle, in press). Dichter’s work (1964) is an outgrowth of this tradition.

In the social sciences, anthropologists have used systematic observation to construct detailed descriptions of financial behaviors in primitive or otherwise exotic societies, occasionally to describe more general principles upon which comprehensive theories might be based (e.g., Douglas & Isherwood, 1979; Crump, 1981; Parry & Bloch, 1989; and Gregory, 1997). Psychologists have used tests and questionnaires to look for patterns of covariance, (e.g., Yamauchi & Templer, 1982; Furnham, 1984) or interactions between personal and environmental factors, especially with regard to industrial compensation, (e.g., Opsahl & Dunnette, 1966; Thierry, 1984). Sociologists have, on the one hand, sought to place questions of money meanings in a larger theoretical context (e.g., Weber, 1976; Coleman, 1990), or to specify the particular social meanings (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Zelizer, 1994). Baker and Jimerson (1992, esp. p. 683) provide a structure for classifying sociological studies of money and property, and Doyle (1992a) presents a schema for assessing various disciplines’ under-representedness in particular areas of study.

In psychoanalysis and psychometrics, the relevant literatures have focused on defining personality types or dimensions. In some instances, the analysts spoke explicitly of money and property; in others, later authors applied the analysts’ thinking to our domain. Table l presents the neurotic types that Fenichel (1938) observed in the financial domain; the chief themes that Adler (1956) said people use to cope with their feelings of inferiority, and that Poduska (1985) applied to the financial world; the basic psychological operations that Jung (in Campbell, 1971) postulted for perceiving and evaluating the world in general, and which Doyle extended to the world of money in particular; and the "non-productive orientations" that Fromm (1947) saw in modern capitalistic society, all categorized (Doyle, 1992b) in terms of Introversion/Extraversion (after Eysenck, 1953/1970) and Toughminded/ Tenderminded (after James, 1911). It is these four psychoanalytic categories for which we shall try to find psychometric equivalents.


This study analyzed responses from in-person interviews of a representative sample of the adult U. S. population carried out by Roper/Starch Worldwide as part of a larger study on couples and money commissioned by Worth Magazine.

Sample. More specifically, the sample consisted of 2,000 non-institutionalized American adults chosen by standard area sampling techniques (e.g., Cochran, 1977, Chs. 10 & 11). Of the total sample, 53% were female, 47% male; ages ranged from 18 to 79, median category 40-44; income ranged from less than $10,000 to more than $75,000, median category $35-39,900; and education ranged from grade school through post graduate, median high school graduate.



Instrumentation. The interview schedule was the product of three different panels working independently, the first composed of Roper/Starch survey experts; the second composed of the sponsor’s staff members, mostly financial journalists; the thirdCa panel of N=1Cone of the present authors, as consultant. The survey went through several iterations until all three panels were satisfied that it met the goal: "a wide variety of meaningful questions clearly worded."

The over-all survey inquired into a wide range of family financial behaviors. The present segment concentrated on financial attitudes, goals, values, and symbolic meanings. The attitudes were measured by a series of forced-choice dyads, "Pick the statementCA or BCthat comes closest to how you feel." The goals and symbolic meanings were measured by multiple-response checklist: "Which two or three items on this list...?" The financial values were measured by four-point Likert scales, Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. In addition, this segment of the survey employed a set of 24 "personality" items, also written by the panels, for use in clustering people. These items were all answered on seven-point Likert scales, Disagree Completely to Agree Completely.

Approach. The general approach was to cluster respondents into categories approximating the psychoanalysts’ "psychological types" and then to test across categories for differences in values, practices, attitudes, and endorsements.


Grouping People into Clusters

Factor Analysis. Subjects’ responses to the 24 personality items were subjected to a series of principal component analyses, eliminating the four items that showed loadings less than .30, and rotating to a Varimax solution. Because our purpose was to match the four psychoanalytic types, we forced the extraction of two bipolar factors, which, when the vectors are crossed as Cartesian coordinates, would produce four categories (high vs. low Factor I crossed with high vs. low Factor II). Our final pair of factors (Table 2) accounted for 22.1% and 9.6% of the variance, respectively, with alpha reliabilities of .80 and .63.

Recognizing that factor naming is always risky, we nevertheless tried to name our factors according to psychoanalytic principles. In psychoanalytic terms, high Factor I scores seem to describe cathexis, o focus, on the external world; while low scores describe just the opposite, focus on the interior life. Thus people who use money to make themselves feel free and independent are focusing their energy on the outside world, hence are exhibiting extraversion, while people who do the opposite are focusing on the interior world, introversion. This is a more subtle interpretation than the more typical "gregarious" vs. "introspective," but the substrate is the same. (See Jung, in Campbell, 1971, Ch. 8). Hence we labeled Factor I Extraversion/Introversion.

In a similar vein, high Factor II scores would indicate the practicality, independence, privacy, and competence often associated with what James (1911) and Eysenck (1953/1970) called the "Toughminded" orientation, while low scores describe the opposing "Tenderminded" orientation. Accordingly, we named Factor II Toughminded/ Tenderminded.

Cluster Analysis. To produce four categories that might correspond to the Fenichel/Adler/Jung/Fromm types, we clustered people on the basis of the same pool of items we used in the factor analyses, the original 24 items minus the four with low factor loadings, using Merrill and Reid’s (1981) terminology to name the categories: Drivers, Analytics, Amiables, and Expressives. We note that the Driver category seems similar to Yamauchi and Templer’s (1982) "Success Symbol" factor and Furnham’s (1984) "Money over Pleasure" factor; our Analytic category to their "Plan for the Future" factor and his "Worse off" factor; our Expressive category with their "Top-of-the-Line" factor and his "Buy to Impress" factor; and our Amiable category with their "Spend to Feel Better" factor and his "Guilty when I Spend" factor.



To test the discriminant validity of the four clusters, we performed one-way ANOVAs on the mean factor scores. Table 3 presents the means, F’s, and significance levels. Both ANOVAs are significant at p<.001, indicating strong discriminating power.

Cluster I (36.4% of the sample; "Drivers") comprises people described as both Extraverted and Toughminded, e.g., who agreed that it’s impossible to feel free and independent unless they have a good amount of money and that their chief financial goal is to have enough money to handle any emergency. Cluster II (31%; "Analytics") comprises people described as both Introverted and Toughminded, e.g., who said money was not so important to freedom and independence but that their chief financial goal was still to cover any emergency. Cluster III (20.5%; "Amiables") comprises people described as both Introverted and Tenderminded, e.g., who reported neither that money was so important nor that their chief goal was to protect against emergencies. Finally, Cluster IV (12.1% of the sample; "Expressives") comprises people described as both Extraverted and Tenderminded, e.g., who reported that money was important for feeling free and independent but that their chief goal was other than covering emergencies. Visual inspection suggests a strong similarity between these four clusters and those proposed by Fenichel, Adler, Jung, and Fromm (Table 1).

Testing for Differences across the Groups

We next compared the responses from the four clusters on a variety of self-reported financial attitudes, goals, values, and symbolic meanings, to test discriminant validity and to see if the patterns of similarities and differences seemed meaningful.

Attitudes. Table 4 shows the frequency distributions and chi-squareds for six items that measure various attitudes toward money across the four categories. All of the chi-squareds were significant at p<.001 except generous/foolish v. miserly/wise, which was significant at p<.05. In Table 4, Amiables were highest, and Drivers lowest, on Resisting Desires, preferring Practical Purchases, Living Modestly, Being Safe rather than Sorry, Looking out for Others First, and preferring to be Generous but Foolish rather than Miserly ut Wise. Expressives were highest on Indulging Desires and Buying the Best. Expressives’ self reports were consistently more like Drivers’ than like Analytics’ or Amiables,’ and Analytics’ were more like Amiables’ than like Expressives’ or Drivers.’



Goals. In Table 5, we interpreted only those goals for which ANOVA was significant. Accordingly, Amiables were most concerned about Protecting their Families and Having Enough to Live on, least concerned about Living Well Today. Drivers were most concerned about Buying a House or Apartment. Expressives were most concerned about Living Well Today, least concerned about Having Enough to Live on, Protecting Their Families, and Being Financially Independent. There was no statistically significant goal on which Analytics were ranked either most or least concerned, although they were highest on the non-significant Providing for Retirement. Category rankings on the other non-significant goals also seemed consistent with expectations.

Values. In Table 6, all ANOVAs were significant (p<.001) except those for items 1 ("Root of all evil") and 8 ("Neither a borrower nor a lender be"). Amiables agreed most with Money Can’t Buy Happiness and More Blessed to Give than Receive. Drivers agreed most to Time is Money, Money is Power, Money Makes the World Go Round, and Most Toys Wins. Amiables agreed least with Time is Money, Money is Power, Money Makes the World Go Round, and Most Toys WinsCexactly the opposite of Drivers. Analytics agreed most with A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned. Expressives agreed least with Money Can’t Buy Happiness, Money is Power, Penny Saved, and More Blessed to Give. These patterns seem entirely consistent with those in Tables 4 and 5: Amiables concerned with happiness and wholesomeness; Drivers most concerned with Power and Materialism, Amiables least; Expressives most concerned with immediate pleasure, Analytics with frugality.

Symbolic Meanings. As with Financial Goals, we interpreted Symbolic Meanings items for which the ANOVA was statistically significant. Table 7 indicates that Amiables agreed more that money means Helping Your Children, Making a Contribution to Society, and Greed; less that it symbolizes Power, Social Status, Achievement, Pleasure, or Freedom. Drivers said money means Power, Achievement and Freedom, but not Comfort. Expressives said money symbolizes Power, Social Status, and Pleasure but not Security, Helping Your Children, or Making a Contribution to Society. Analytics said money means Security and Comfort rather than Power, Social Status, or Greed.


This paper is encouraging as to the possibilities for greater dialogue across epistemologies and disciplines, with regard to life in general and consumer behavior in particular. We were able to construct a set of empirical factors that correspond very well with a four-part typology widely found in psychoanalytic writing, and we found quite a clear pattern of behaviors associated with the clusters. Cluster I people ("Drivers") and Cluster III people ("Amiables") often express opposite values, attitudes, and so forth: The Drivers focused on achievement, success, and, in a word, "materialism"; the Amiables, on family, helping, and generosity, i.e., "anti-materialism." Though the pattern is less sharp, Cluster II people ("Analytics") and Cluster IV people ("Expressives") also frequently indicate opposite positions: Analytics focused on security and planfulness, Expressives on the pleasure of the moment, i.e., deferred v. immediate gratification. These patterns seem very consistent with the psychoanalytic characteristics summarized in Table 1.

Beyond our paper, we see additional signs of similarity, in a variety of disciplines. In sociology, for example, Brinkerhoff and White (1985) describe modes of societal interaction which seem to correspond quite nicely wth our findings: Their Competitive style corresponds to our Drivers; their Cooperative to our Amiables; their Conflictual to our Expressives; and their Exchange to our Analytics. In classical philosophy, Galen (building upon Empedocles and Hippocrates) proposed four temperaments, which also seem to correspond with our types/factors: Cholerics with Drivers, Melancholics with Amiables, Sanguines with Expressives, and Phlegmatics with Analytics (Doyle, 1992b). Most surprising of all, in neurophysiology, Cloninger (1987) has proposed four biological "stimulus-response operations" for human personality, which seem isomorphic with our list: His Persistence correspond with our Drivers, his Reward Dependence with our Amiables, his Novelty Seeking with our Expressives, and his Harm Avoidance with our Analytics. Despite great differences in terminology and epistemology, these very different disciplines have come up with a set of biopsychosocial categories upon which many representative thinkers seem to agree.



Despite these encouraging signs, there is still an enormous amount of work to do. One important step will be to try to synthesize the considerable body of materialism research (e.g., Belk et al. 1982; Belk, 1985; Richins & Dawson, 1992) into these categoriesCDrivers as materialists, for example, and Amiables as anti-materialists. Another, to align our four categories with other multidimensional systems, e.g., Rokeach, 1973; Mitchell, 1983 [VALS]; yet another, to connect the specific meanings Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton (1981), Zelizer (1994), Richins (1994) and others have identified, to our categories of foundational meanings; to relate meaning to social communication and the establishment of identity (e.g., Dichter, 1964; Douglas & Isherwood, 1979; Babe, 1995; Dittmar, 1992; Belk, 1988); and, finally, to expand our research from focus on structure, covariation, and effects to focus on the process through which we attribute meaning to money and property (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Doyle, in press).

Such syntheses would not only be inherently interestingCthey would be of considerable value in consumer research. They could provide a more dependable body of practical information than is currently available to guide target marketing plans and structure advertising programs, especially interactive advertising programs, and they could provide opportunity for the construction of far more comprehensive theories of consumer behavior: Neurophysiology and endocrinology to define the biological basis of consumer attitudes and values; psychometrics to articulate and measure behavior patterns; the humanitiesCincluding psychoanalysisCto advance more probing hypotheses for quantitative and qualitative testing; and sociology, anthropology, perhaps even social geography, to describe interactions with the social and physical environments. Indeed, the new challenge for all disciplines may be consilienceCidentification of the handful of basic elements all disciplines and epistemologies have in common and upon which all knowledge rests (Wilson, 1998).








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Seounmi Youn, University of Minnesota
Kenneth O. Doyle, University of Minnesota


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26 | 1999

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