What happens in our brain when we see banknotes being ripped up?

Or, put another way, "Is our attitude to money like that to any other tool even though its use is symbolic and is not implemented in its physical structure?"

To find out, the researchers from the Center of Functionally Integrative Neurosciences at Aarhus, Denmark, and the Center for Cognitive Science, Turin, Italy, asked experimental subjects to watch banknotes being destroyed whist undergoing a brain scan.

"Knowledge of the functional use of concrete tools, such as hammers or screwdrivers, has been associated with activation of a left hemisphere network including the posterior temporal cortex, supramarginal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, and lateral precuneus. Here we demonstrate that observing bank notes being cut up or torn, a critical violation of their function, elicits activation within the same temporo-parietal network."

- say the research team. And, moreover, the study not only showed that observer's brains register a response when seeing money destroyed, but also that the strength of the response varies according to the amount.

"… this activation is the greater the higher the value of the banknote."

How the brain responds to the destruction of money is published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, Vol 4(1), Feb 2011, 1-10.

Note 1: Attention researchers: Destroying banknotes may be illegal in some countries:
Note 2: Possible research stimulus: Watch The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid

This post originally appeared on Improbable Research.