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Cold Hard Cash May Be More Than a Metaphor

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Engage in a little thought experiment with me. Picture a stack of cash. Imagine yourself counting each crisp bill, one by one. How do you feel? Do you have a slight chill?

A recent study suggests “cold hard cash” is more than a metaphor.

It's not news that money has profound effects on human behavior, many of them negative. Leonie Reutner, a researcher studying social and consumer psychology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, wanted to know if money has an impact on the body itself.

Reutner and a team of researchers from the University of Basel and the University of Salzburg in Austria came up with a simple hypothesis: If money has been connected to socially “cold” behavior, can money cause a physical sensation of coldness?

They set out to test the hypothesis with two studies. In one, participants dipped a hand into a jar filled with about $1300 in banknotes. The control group put a hand into a jar filled with pieces of paper of the same size and color as the banknotes. They then asked the test subjects to estimate the temperature of the room. (To disguise the purpose of the experiment, they also asked them to make some other random estimates, including the size of the room.) Those who dipped their hand in the money jar “gave significantly lower estimates of room temperature,” the researchers write. “Money did not affect any of the other estimates, indicating that priming money had an influence on temperature perception only.”

In the second study, they asked a different set of subjects to submerge their hands for 10 seconds into bowls of water heated to exactly 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and estimate the water’s temperature. As in the first study, participants then dipped their hands into one of two jars, one stuffed with money and the other with similarly sized pieces of paper. Meanwhile, the water in the bowls had cooled to 31.14 degrees Celsius. When participants returned their hands to the cooler water, researchers cranked the heat back up and asked the subjects to say “stop” when it had warmed to its original temperature. People who handled money perceived the original temperature as lower.

“The idea is similar to your body adapting to a frigid temperature outside and then going inside and feeling very hot,” Reutner told the Wall Street Journal. “The colder you are, the warmer the room feels in contrast to your body.”

The researchers claim this chilly feeling is caused by exposure to money“Our findings offer fascinating insights into how money makes people feel,” they write. “While money won’t make anyone’s heart turn to cold stone, it does make the body feel colder.”

The potential link between "cold" social behavior and actual physical coldness may seem a bit simplistic, but "a relatively large number of studies are consistent with these findings,” says Norbert Schwarz, provost professor at the University of Southern California’s Department of Psychology and Marshall School of Business.

The authors cite a series of nine studies from 2006 which found that people “primed” with money by handling or thinking about it performed "independent but socially insensitive actions,” meaning they were more self-reliant but treated others worse. Compared to participants who were not reminded of money, those primed with money were more likely to work and play alone, and less likely to help a person in need or donate to a fundraiser. They also "put more physical distance between themselves and a new acquaintance,” the authors wrote.

Another study replicated these findings in the real world.  People who had just withdrawn money from an ATM were far less likely to help a passerby requesting assistance. In one part of the study, just 60 percent of ATM users alerted a fellow pedestrian that they’d dropped their bus pass. Of those who hadn’t gotten money from the ATM, 96 percent had the courtesy to tell the person they’d lost something. 

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Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.


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