Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zip-zapping Brains Can Increase Saving $$ Behavior?! So Far, Just in the Lab

Neuroscience is covering the behavioral waterfront like algae in warming seas. Now it's about rebooting hard-wired spending habits. Noticeable differences in the brain anatomy and action was noted for savers and spenders. Which are you? Or are you in the mid? Sharon Begley's article in Newsweek calls the summary research findings, the "moneybrain."

Much of the concepts about problem-solving thinking, will power, strategic allocation of attention, and delay of gratification all are part of the interactive process that determines what and how we spend and save.  Begley notes that, "Identifying the regions of the brain that control impulses, is a first step in learning how to strengthen them and, ultimately to enjoy saving."

 Yes, I'm sure that's true, but then what? Makes sense that we're more likely to spend impulsively than to save impulsively, but maybe there are addictive savers as well as spenders. Tight-wads? Frugalites? Obsessive-compulsive people focused on money? Just plain sane, folks with common sense and olf-fashion values? Debt-haters?

Regardless, I don't want someone zip-zapping around my brain to figure out exactly how to get me to save or spend more, whether it's "noninvasive" or not! Just in case you're more adventuresome in this realm than I, the technique is called TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation. The procedure has been conducted only in labs so far, but . . .

Besides hard-wiring for one or another end of the s-s spectrum, ages and stages as well as the realities of life must have some effect. E.g. saving has increased and spending has decreased during the recession for obvious reasons. Reminds me of the habit stuff I was just posting about: cues trigger a routine/habit which is rewarded, whether sooner or later. Also as Begley points out in her article, one-click shopping, Twittering,  instagrams all encourage instant gratification.

Good news for women and money comes from the Journal of American Science (2011) and World Bank research.

 • College women demonstrate better financial management and spending management than men. They focus on cash flow. Men do a better job of planning for the future with savings and investments.
 • Women, as has been true for decades, are still more cautious and risk aversive. They manage the day-to-day well. Generally, they don't do a great job planning for the future.

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