I was reading a story about how there’s still a huge problem with counterfeit money in this country, despite advances in bill security features. Although people are arrested everyday trying to pass bogus bills, many other get away with it. Not all businesses train cashiers to scrutinize the money they are given, so an inattentive employee will often let a bad bill through.
The biggest issue is that, even though we see and handle money constantly, most people have terrible recall about the features of our money.
The story reminded me of a study done some years ago.
This is where the humble penny comes in.
Researchers wanted to look into the level of recall people had for common objects. They chose the pennies because of how ubiquitous they are.
They used different methods to gauge penny memory, and people failed at all of them!
Nobody could accurately draw a penny when presented with a blank circle.
Almost nobody could draw a penny when give a list of the words and images that appear on a penny. They couldn’t put the various elements in the right places.
When presented with a list of words and images, people could not accurately identify which were on a penny.
This lack of recall for common objects is today fueling a rise in a new kind of bogus money: prop money.
Unlike bills created for the purpose of fooling cashiers, prop money is specially made and regulated to appear real on film, but not up close. The problem is that when cashiers are inattentive, the money looks close enough that it is accepted.
So the next time someone hands you a three dollar bill, or a $20 bill with a Ukrainian Mall of it instead of the White House, you’ll hopefully notice. Here's a nice ditty to help!