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Psychological Inquiry , 19: 167–173, 2008

Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 1047-840X print / 1532-7965 online DOI: 10.1080/10478400802631295

print / 1532-7965 online DOI: 10.1080/10478400802631295 “Can’t Buy Me Love”: An Attachment Perspective on

“Can’t Buy Me Love”: An Attachment Perspective on Social Support and Money as Psychological Buffers

Mario Mikulincer

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel

Phillip R. Shaver

University of California, Davis, California

We are pleased to see that 44 years after the Bea- tles told us that while money can make us feel all right, it ultimately “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Zhou and Gao (this issue) have written a provocative review of research on the ways in which these two resources act as buffers against physical and psychological pain. Zhou and Gao, like the Beatles, emphasize the impor- tance of love and money as stress or pain reducers, and the possibility of using money to complement or replace the more natural resource of love. However, Zhou and Gao’s argument suggests a different song ti- tle and lyrics. Whereas Lennon and McCartney argued that money cannot restore or replace love, Zhou and Gao might suggest a new song, “Money Can Do the Job of Love.” In this commentary, we consider the connections between love and money and also their potential roles as psychological stress and pain buffers through the lenses of Bowlby’s (1973, 1980, 1982) attachment theory and our own conceptualization of the activa- tion and functioning of the attachment behavioral sys- tem in adulthood (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003, 2007a, 2007b; Shaver & Mikulincer, 2002, 2007). Attachment theory is a theory of emotion regulation that empha- sizes the importance of seeking and receiving love and support in times of need and stress. It charac- terizes social support as an innate form of ameliora- tion and protection from physical and psychological pain. Attachment theory has been tested in hundreds of studies—some observational, some experimental, and some longitudinal—and the theory has been ex- panded to apply to all phases of the human lifespan. It has been explored and tested at all different lev- els of analysis, such as genes, neurons, conscious and unconscious mental processes, and interpersonal rela- tions in a variety of settings: from the bedroom and nursery to large businesses and military organizations. As such, attachment theory offers a broad and well- validated perspective on the role of social support as a pain-buffering mechanism. Although attachment theory does not deal directly with the potential pain-buffering role of money, and has generated no published research on this issue, it may still provide important insights into the ability of

money to restore or replace love. Specifically, we agree with Zhou and Gao (this issue) that money can act as a secondary defense against physical and psycholog- ical pain mainly when potentially supportive others (whom Bowlby, 1982, called attachment figures ) fail to provide love, support, and relief in times of need. However, we disagree with Zhou and Gao that money can replace or restore social support, nor do we agree that its psychological effects are identical to those re- sulting from loving a attachment figure’s provision of a safe haven and secure base when a person is bothered by stress or pain. Our analysis looks back to England in the 1960s, where Bowlby developed his theory of attachment and the Beatles sang “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Our commentary contains four sections. The first explains attachment theory’s perspective on support- seeking as a distress-buffering mechanism. The second section considers the empirically documented psycho- logical benefits of receiving love and support, which we summarize in terms of a “broaden-and-build cycle of attachment security” (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003, 2007a, 2007b). In the third section, we argue that money can act as a pain buffer mainly among people who fail to receive love and support from others and do not possess a solid and stable sense of attachment security. Specifically, we focus on individual differ- ences in attachment orientations and review evidence showing that money-seeking and an avoidant attach- ment orientation have similar correlates and outcomes. We also present new evidence concerning the associa- tion between avoidant attachment and money seeking. In the last section, we consider why money “can’t buy love,” according to an attachment-theoretical perspec- tive. To save space and keep references to a minimum we rely heavily on our prior reviews of the attachment literature.

An Attachment Perspective on Support-Seeking

Zhou and Gao’s (this issue) claim that the antic- ipation of physical and psychological pain heightens the desire for social support is a main tenant of attach- ment theory (Bowlby, 1973, 1980, 1982). According to



Bowlby (1982), acts of seeking support are behavioral manifestations of an innate regulatory system called the attachment behavioral system, which is thought to have emerged over the course of primate evolution (Simp- son & Belsky, 2008). It is presumed to have evolved as an adaptation because it increased the likelihood of survival and reproduction in a species whose off- spring are born months before they can walk, talk, ex- plore their environment, find food and water, or protect themselves from predators and other dangers. Infants who were equipped with a neural system that automat- ically activated behaviors aimed at gaining proximity and support from what Bowlby (1982) called “stronger and wiser caregivers” (behaviors such as making eye contact, smiling, crying, calling, following, hugging, or clinging) would have had better odds of surviving to reproductive age than infants who lacked such a regulatory system. Attachment theory identifies the three kinds of sup- port people seek from attachment figures in times of need (e.g., Hazan & Zeifman, 1994). First, an attach- ment figure can provide comfort simply by being phys- ically or psychologically present, because this implies that support will be available if needed. Conversely, anxiety, worry, or protest may be elicited if proximity to an attachment figure is threatened by separation or loss. Second, an attachment figure can provide what Bowlby (1982) called a safe haven in times of distress:

helping a person overcome threats and obstacles and providing instrumental and emotional support until the threat passes or is dealt with successfully. Third, an attachment figure can provide a secure base for ex- ploration (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1988), helping a person to pursue personal goals in a safe and effective way. In other words, hu- man beings seek a haven of safety when the world seems dangerous, and they seek support for autonomy and self-expansion when the world offers interesting challenges that promise pleasure and an opportunity to develop new knowledge and skills. Whereas Zhou and Gao (this issue) focused on the safe haven function of attachment figures, they failed to address the role that love and support play in facilitating autonomy, growth, self-expansion, and self-actualization. Although behavior governed by the attachment sys- tem is most noticeable, and perhaps most crucial, early in life when a human being is most helpless, Bowlby claimed that it is active throughout the human lifespan and is evident in thoughts and actions related to seeking love, support, and guidance in times of need, whatever a person’s age may be. During infancy, primary care- givers (such as parents) are likely to occupy the role of attachment figures (Ainsworth et al., 1978). Dur- ing adolescence and adulthood, peers (including close friends and romantic partners or mates) often become attachment figures as well (Ainsworth, 1991). Teach- ers and supervisors in academic settings or therapists in


clinical settings can also serve as important providers of support (Bowlby, 1988). Moreover, groups, institu- tions, and spiritual figures, real or imagined (e.g., God, the Buddha), can also be used, at least mentally, as attachment figures. In fact, mental representations of attachment figures (such as thoughts, memories, and images—both conscious and unconscious) can serve as internal sources of protection, support, and encour- agement. They may also provide internal models of supportive behavior that help a person self-soothe in the absence of physically present attachment figures (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2004; Shaver & Mikulincer,


Bowlby (1982) claimed that the main goal of sup- port seeking is to increase one’s sense of security—the sense that the world is generally safe and positively challenging, that one can rely on others for protection and support when needed, and that it is easy and re- warding to explore the world and engage in social (af- filiative) and nonsocial (skill-learning) activities with- out fear of injury or demoralizing failure. This goal of attaining felt security is made particularly salient by actual or symbolic threats, which automatically acti- vate the attachment system and motivate a person to seek either tangible or symbolic support from an at- tachment figure. These bids for support persist until a sense of security is restored, at which time a person can comfortably return to other activities. During in- fancy, the primary strategy includes mostly nonverbal expressions of need, such as crawling toward the at- tachment figure, reaching out to be picked up, crying, clinging, and so on. In adulthood, the primary strat- egy involves seeking support through many additional methods (e.g., talking, calling someone on the tele- phone, sending an e-mail or text message, driving to the person’s home or workplace) and mentally con- juring up soothing, comforting, and encouraging men- tal representations of attachment figures (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2004, 2007b). Such mental representations can bolster a person’s sense of security, allowing him or her to continue pursuing other goals without making bids for proximity and protection. In a series of laboratory experiments (Mikulincer, Gillath, & Shaver, 2002), we found that turning part of one’s mind to representations of attachment fig- ures is such a basic and well-practiced regulatory pro- cess that it does not require conscious deliberation. In these experiments, we subliminally presented threat- ening words (e.g., failure, separation) to young adults; then, we indirectly assessed, by measuring reaction times in a word-identification or word-color-naming task, which names of relationship partners became more available for processing following the uncon- scious threat. It turned out that the names of attach- ment figures (identified with the WHOTO question- naire, developed by Hazan & Zeifman, 1994) became more available following unconscious exposure to a


threatening word. But the threatening words had no effect on the mental accessibility of names of other people who were not viewed as attachment figures. These results imply that, in times of need, the at- tachment system automatically searches memory for representations of special people who might provide protection and support. In other studies (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2004), we found that this kind of mental social- referencing of attachment figures caused securely at- tached individuals to see themselves as more similar than usual to their security-providing attachment fig- ures, which seemed to be part of a self-soothing routine that measurably reduced stress. In their analysis of social support as a pain buffer, Zhou and Gao (this issue) failed to address these in- ternalized sources of love and support that allow some people to maintain emotional stability without relying on external sources of support or material resources (e.g., money). We believe, instead, that Zhou and Gao’s claim that social exclusion results in an upsurge of pain, and that failure to gain social support leads peo- ple to rely on money as a pain buffer, applies mainly to individuals who do not have an inner sense of attach- ment security. Social exclusion leaves them defense- less again physical and psychological sources of pain, and money or power are sought as alternative ways to reduce pain. Recently, we found that experimental interventions that heighten mental representations of attachment security reduced the intensity of “hurt feel- ings” caused by interpersonal rejection or social exclu- sion (Cassidy, Shaver, Mikulincer, & Lavy, in press). This is an example of evidence that even momentary boosts in security allow people to cope with pain.

The Psychological Benefits of Social Support:

The Broaden-and-Build Cycle of Attachment Security

Viewed within the perspective of attachment theory, Zhou and Gao’s (this issue) second claim, that social support alleviates pain, is just one example of the broad psychological benefits gained by a sense of attachment security. In our model of attachment-system function- ing in adulthood (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003, 2007a), we summarize episodes of feeling loved and supported by others and the consequent formation of a sense of security as the foundation of what Fredrickson (2001) called a broaden-and-build cycle of positive emotion. According to our model, pain alleviation and the restoration of emotional equanimity (the focus of Zhou and Gao’s second proposition) are the most imme- diate psychological benefits of having reliable, de- pendable access to one or more supportive others in times of need. Indeed, several studies show that hav- ing a stable sense of attachment security is associated with other measures of well-being and mental health

and is inversely associated with measures of nega-

tive affectivity and psychopathology (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). Moreover, several experimental stud- ies show that priming thoughts of available and sup- portive others, whether accomplished consciously or unconsciously, has positive effects on mood and re- duces cognitive distortions associated with emotional problems (reviewed by Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007b). The model also explains how repeated experiences of support contribute to resilience and emotional sta- bility. Gratifying experiences with supportive others are thought to be mentally represented in what Bowlby (1973) called inner- or internal-working models of self and others: (a) representations of the self as special, valued, and able to elicit others’ support, and (b) rep- resentations of other people as good, trustworthy, and helpful. These experiences are also recorded in the form of procedural knowledge about distress manage- ment, which is organized around a relational secure- base script (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007b; Waters & Waters, 2006). Theoretically, this script includes the following if-then propositions: “If I encounter an ob- stacle or become distressed, I can approach a signifi- cant other for help; he or she is likely to be available and supportive; I will experience relief and comfort as

a result of proximity to this person; I can then return to

other activities.” Once activated, this script serves as a

guide for adaptively coping with pain and distress. Activation of the secure-base script guides and sus- tains the broaden-and-build cycle of attachment secu- rity. One of the core components of the secure-base script is the proposition that relief and comfort will re- sult from calling upon an attachment figure. This belief promotes a pervasive sense of safety, assuages distress, and allows secure people to remain relatively unper-

turbed during times of stress and experience longer pe- riods of positive affectivity. This belief also sustains ap- praisals of life difficulties as manageable, which helps

a person maintain an optimistic and hopeful stance re-

garding distress management. The secure-base script also includes the proposition that others will be avail- able and supportive when one asks for support, which sustains positive beliefs about others’ intentions and traits and assuages worries about being rejected, criti- cized, or abused. This knowledge, presumably, makes it easier to optimistically seek support when needed and to maintain a positive emotional state while seek- ing relief from distress. Indeed, experimental studies have shown that priming security-related mental rep- resentations lead to higher scores on measures of op- timism, hope, and self-confidence, and more favorable appraisals of romantic partners (Mikulincer & Shaver,


Having experienced available and responsive sup- port makes it less necessary to rely on other kinds of psychological defenses that can distort percep- tion, limit coping flexibility, and generate interpersonal



conflict. As a result, a secure person can devote mental resources that otherwise would be employed in pre- ventive, defensive maneuvers to growth-oriented ac- tivities. The secure person can also attend to other peo- ple’s needs and feelings rather than, or in addition to, the individual’s own. Being confident that support is available when needed, a person can take calculated risks and accept important challenges that contribute to the broadening of perspectives and skills. Indeed, the experimental priming of security-related mental repre- sentations encourages relaxed exploration of new or unusual information and phenomena, favors the for- mation of open and flexible cognitive structures (de- spite the uncertainty and confusion that a broadening of experience might evoke), and has positive effects on compassionate feelings, altruistic behavior, and toler- ance toward outgroup members (Mikulincer & Shaver,


Overall, mental representations of attachment se- curity can make less necessary the reliance on mate- rial resources for buffering physical and psychologi- cal pain, even when external sources of support are absent. Moreover, the broaden-and-build cycle of at- tachment security can move a person from a defen- sive position in which he or she seeks money in order to “buy” love or comfort toward the ideal advocated by classic and contemporary “positive” psychologists such as Rogers (1961) and Seligman (2002). This the- oretical ideal person is curious and confident, with a deep and genuine sense of self-worth: a person who can establish intimate, caring relationships, and take risks and challenges to grow personally toward self- actualization while helping others thrive as well. Future research should determine the extent to which exper- imental interventions aimed at heightening access to mental representations of attachment security can re- duce defensive, materialistic strivings as a way to cope with threatening conditions.

Money Seeking and Insecure Forms of Attachment

In this section, we focus on Zhou and Gao’s (this is- sue) third proposition, which states that people seek money when social support fails to alleviate pain. Specifically, we argue that the reliance on money- seeking as a secondary pain buffer depends on a per- son’s attachment orientation or style. In the previous sections, we noted that the possession of a solid and stable sense of attachment security makes less neces- sary the reliance on money as a pain buffer, even when external support is absent, because previous social sup- port from attachment figures has provided the person with internal methods of self-soothing. This makes it likely that Zhou and Gao’s analysis more specifically applies to insecurely attached people who have failed


to establish an internal sense of attachment security. In this section, we refine this point by considering the two major kinds of attachment insecurity: anxiety and avoidance. According to attachment theory, a history of in- teractions with attachment figures who are available, responsive, and supportive in times of need allows a person to form a stable and pervasive sense of at- tachment security (Bowlby, 1988). However, when a person’s attachment figures are not reliably available and supportive—that is, when a sense of security is not attained—serious doubts about the effectiveness of support seeking are aroused and other strategies of af- fect regulation (which Main, 1990, called secondary attachment strategies ) are adopted. Disappointing or frustrating interactions with attachment figures erode a person’s reliance on support seeking and replace it with either attachment-system hyperactivation—energetic, anxious, controlling, or intrusive attempts to force a relationship partner to pay more attention and pro- vide better care (which may, paradoxically lead to rejection and separation)—or with attachment-system deactivation, which involves suppressing or inhibit- ing support-seeking tendencies and developing what Bowlby (1973) called “compulsive self-reliance.” Attachment theory proposes that a particular history of experiences with attachment figures and the result- ing internal working models culminate in relatively stable individual differences in attachment orientation or style : A habitual, ingrained pattern of expectations, needs, emotions, and behavior in interpersonal situa- tions and close relationships (Fraley & Shaver, 2000). Research suggests that attachment orientations are best conceptualized as regions in a two-dimensional space (e.g., Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998). One of these di- mensions, attachment-related avoidance, concerns dis- comfort with emotional closeness, discomfort with de- pendence on relationship partners, and a preference for interpersonal distance, low emotionality, and ex- treme self-reliance. The other dimension, attachment- related anxiety, includes a strong desire for closeness and safety, intense worries about partner availability and responsiveness, and worries about one’s value to a partner. People who score low on both dimensions are said to be secure or securely attached. One corollary of this conception of attachment ori- entations is that people with an insecure attachment orientation are likely to rely on money as a pain buffer because they do not have a history of comforting inter- actions with supportive attachment figures. This idea is corroborated in Zhou and Gao’s (this issue) review showing that lack of stable and loving primary attach- ment figures results in materialistic tendencies. How- ever, the motives for seeking money as a substitute for love might be different for people with different kinds of attachment insecurity. For people scoring high on avoidant attachment, who deactivate attachment needs


and try not to seek support, money might be an alterna-

tive path to gaining a sense of identity and self-worth. It might promote or support autonomy and self-reliance, making it less necessary to rely on others for love and support. For people scoring high on attachment anxiety, who hyperactivate their attachment needs and attempt to gain others’ love and support, even if this requires acting intrusively or even coercively, money might be

a way to “buy” others’ love (or, at least, admiration

and attention). In other words, although both avoidant and anxiously attached people may be driven to pursue money they may desire this materialistic resource for different reasons, like standing above others or buy- ing others’ love. If so, gaining such resources might have different psychological consequences (e.g., self- reliance vs. interpersonal acceptance). A detailed analysis of Zhou and Gao’s (this is- sue) description of materialism as a coping strategy reveals that people who use money to alleviate pain strongly resemble people we have studied who score high on avoidant attachment. For example, Zhou and Gao (this issue) report that more materialistic people have stronger needs for control and self-enhancement, and are more likely than other people to use money as means to reduce self-doubts and feelings of help- lessness. Attachment research has shown that avoidant attachment is associated with a desire for personal con- trol and dominance (mainly in interpersonal situations) and the use of defensive self-enhancement strategies to quell self-doubts (reviewed by Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). Moreover, Zhou and Gao (this issue) review findings showing that materialism is associated with envy, self-criticism, and public self-consciousness and lower-than-usual levels of generosity, happiness, and life satisfaction. All of these correlates of material- ism have also been empirically linked with avoidant attachment (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). In addi- tion, Zhou and Gao (this issue) present new experi- mental data showing that money can be a means for becoming more independent and self-reliant and for increasing the distance between self and others—all major goals of people with an avoidant attachment orientation. By contrast, people with an anxious approach to

attachment do not abandon their desire to attain love and support. In fact, they beg for support, insist on other people’s availability, cling to their relationship partners, and perceive themselves as highly threatened

if their relationship partners seem to be losing interest

or to be preoccupied with other matters (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). This pattern of behavior does not fit well with Zhou and Gao’s (this issue) description of materialistic people who use money to achieve self- reliance and who are willing to replace love and support with material resources. However, anxiously attached people might also be interested in using money as a means of buying love and attention. As Zhou and Gao

(this issue) claim, money can make a person more at- tractive to others, increase access to potential romantic partners, and increase the likelihood of social approval and respect. To our knowledge there is no published study of possible links between attachment insecurities and at- titudes toward money. Here we wish to present some of our own recent correlational data. Using a Hebrew- language Internet site designed to collect psycholog- ical research data, we asked people to complete two self-report scales: (a) the Experiences in Close Rela- tionships scale (ECR; Brennan et al., 1998), which measures the two forms of attachment insecurity, anxiety and avoidance; and (b) the Money Beliefs and Behaviors Scale (Furnham, 1984), which mea- sures three aspects of a person’s relationship with money: obsession (i.e., excessive preoccupation with money), power (i.e., the belief that money can purchase power, prestige, and control over others), and retention (i.e., parsimony and hoarding). Participants register on the site, provide sociodemographic information, and receive an individual code that allows investi- gators to avoid repetitive participation. Two hundred thirty-two participants (34% men and 66% women, aged 17–56, Median age = 25) responded to the two questionnaires. Pearson correlations indicated that avoidant attach- ment was significantly associated only with the power dimension, r(230) = .29, p < .01, and anxious attach- ment was significantly associated with the obsession and retention dimensions, rs of .34 and .31, ps < .01. That is, more avoidant participants were more likely to believe that money can purchase power, prestige, and control over others. This is reminiscent of find- ings from studies of attachment orientations and sex- ual motives (e.g., Schachner & Shaver, 2004), which have shown that more avoidant people are interested in short-term sexual relations partly to enhance their self-image. Anxious attachment was not associated sig- nificantly with a desire for power and prestige, but it was still associated with a preoccupation with money and attempts to accumulate and hoard it. Unfortunately, the money-related measure available on the website is not adequate to determine why the more anxious re- spondents were obsessed with money. There were no questions about what anxious people might hope to do with their accumulated money. Further research is needed to probe these matters.

Can Money Buy Love?

Zhou and Gao (this issue) contend that money can replace social support as an alleviator of distress and pain. However, they seem to contradict this claim when they review findings showing that materialism is asso- ciated with social anxiety, self-criticism, depression,



and lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction. These are some of the well-documented correlates of insecure attachment styles (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). We suspect that, although money may sub- stitute for or purchase love in some circumstances, in the long run it may not fully replace the pri- mary need for love, support, and comfort from other people. Take, for example, the case of avoidant people who attempt to suppress attachment needs and concerns and rely exclusively on themselves to cope with pain and distress. Attachment research has consistently found that, although avoidant attachment is associated with lack of happiness and life satisfaction, it is not gen- erally associated with measures of psychological dis- tress and negative affectivity, which we interpret as a sign that avoidant strategies are somewhat successful at reducing or at least inhibiting self-doubts, insecuri- ties, and worries (reviewed by Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). This partial benefit of avoidant attachment was noted by Fraley and Shaver (1997), who used a thought-suppression paradigm and found that avoidant people were effective at suppressing thoughts related to relationship separations and losses. More avoidant people reported less frequent thoughts of loss follow- ing a loss-thought-suppression task and also had lower skin conductance (a measure of autonomic arousal) during the task. In contrast, anxious people thought more often about the loss following suppression and had higher skin conductance during the task. A recent fMRI study (Gillath, Bunge, Shaver, Wendelken, & Mikulincer, 2005) replicated these findings while ex- amining patterns of brain activation when people were thinking about breakups or attempting to suppress such thoughts. Anxious participants showed higher activa- tion in emotion-related brain regions and lower activa- tion in frontal areas needed to down-regulate negative emotions. Avoidant participants were able to suppress thoughts and feelings related to loss when they were instructed to do so. At the same time, however, there is evidence that avoidant strategies sometimes lead to emotional and adjustment problems. For example, Berant, Mikulin- cer, and Florian (2001) found that avoidant attached mothers of infants with congenital heart disease, based on measures of avoidance at the time of the diagnosis of the infant’s disorder, predicted maternal distress one year later. We (Berant, Mikulincer, & Shaver, 2008) contacted these women (and their children) 7 years later, finding that the mother’s avoidant attachment at the time of the birth predicted deterioration in her men- tal health and marital satisfaction over a 7-year period, especially if the child’s heart disorder was severe. In addition, the mother’s level of avoidance at the be- ginning of the study predicted her child’s emotional problems and poor self-image 7 years later. Moreover, Mikulincer, Horesh, Eilati, and Kotler (1999) found


that avoidant attachment was associated with the sever-

ity of psychiatric symptoms among Israeli Jewish set- tlers whose lives were chronically endangered by resid- ing in disputed territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. These findings imply that, although avoidant strategies allow people to maintain a defensive fac¸ade of imperturbability, they leave problems unresolved, which may impair adjustment and mental health in the long run. In two laboratory studies, we (Mikulincer, Dolev, & Shaver, 2004) examined attachment-related variations in thought suppression, paying special attention to conditions that can impair the effectiveness of avoidant strategies in preventing the rebound of previously suppressed material. Using a Stroop color-naming task to assess implicit activation of previously suppressed thoughts about a painful separation, we found that avoidant individuals were able to suppress thoughts related to the breakup. For them, such thoughts were relatively inaccessible, and their own positive self-traits became even more accessible than usual (a possible indication of self-inflating defenses, perhaps related to the desire to lord it over others by virtue of having money). However, their ability to maintain this defense was disrupted when a cognitive load—remembering a 7-digit number—was added to the experimental task. Under a high cognitive load, avoidant individuals suddenly exhibited color-naming interference due to thoughts of separation and negative self-traits. That is, the suppressed material resurfaced in experience and behavior when a high cognitive demand was imposed, and this material included sup- pressed negative aspects of the self. We believe that

a similar resurfacing occurs when a high emotional

demand is imposed, as in the studies mentioned here that dealt with prolonged exposure to terror or caring for a child with a congenital heart defect. Overall, these studies emphasize the fragility of avoidant defenses and indirectly imply that strategies aimed at replacing love and support may collapse un- der prolonged threatening circumstances. It is under these circumstances that the availability, sensitivity, and responsiveness of loving others become critical for soothing oneself and maintaining or restoring emo-

tional equanimity. Perhaps money can buy better med-

ical treatments, housing conditions, and luxuries, but

it cannot prevent illness, death, and natural and man-

made disasters and traumas. During these extreme con- ditions, human beings need the love, support, and com- fort from others—the “kind of thing that money just can’t buy,” in Lennon and McCartney’s words. This does not mean that insecure people will give up trying to replace or buy love with money, but it does sug- gest that people who use secondary stress reducers to replace or coerce a simulated version of the primary ones may come up short, no matter how much money and prestige they accumulate.



Address correspondence to Mario Mikulincer, New School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzilya, 46150, Israel. E-mail:


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