Does Money Make You Mean?
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I was listening to the TED Radio Hour on NPR the other day and came across a great podcast. This was an episode that discussed how money can make you mean. It was dealing with the TED talk by Paul Piff, who is a social psychologist. Just listening to this episode made me think about money and how it really can make you mean. Here is some brief information about what he did in his experiments and what they learned. I am also including the entire 16 minute TED talk in case you want to take a listen.
The Rigged Monopoly Game
This was one of the best experiments that Paul’s group did. Who doesn’t love the game of Monopoly? Yes, it is entirely too long, but this game is all about money. You make the right decision and you have money, but if you make the wrong decision, you will lose money.
In their experiment, they took two people in for a 15-minute game of Monopoly. They had rigged the game to instantly make one player rich and one player poor. This was just done by a flip of a coin. As the game was played, they found the rich players would start to make their perceived richness apparent to the other player. They would move their game pieces around the board while banging each block loudly. They would count their money and indicate how much cash they had. They would mock the other player based on the amount of money they had. It was fascinating.
The best part of the experiment came when it ended. They asked each rich player how they felt they played the game. Not once did they indicate that they were lucky, which was exactly what they were. They told the researchers they did well because they bought this property or that property. Their answers were all about what they did to win, not about luck.
The Expensive Car Experiment
I enjoyed this one too. It is harder to deduce why this is happening, but here is what they did. They had a person at a crosswalk trying to get across the street. They did this experiment in California where it is illegal not to stop for a pedestrian trying to cross at a crosswalk.
They tracked cars at different crosswalks and different times of day. They classified the cars based on cost tiers. What they found was pretty crazy. In the least expensive car tier, 0% of the cars broke the law. This means that all of the cars in the least expensive tier stopped for the pedestrian. As the price of vehicle rose, so did the percentage of people breaking the law. At the most expensive tier, they found that 50% of drivers broke the law. I find that fascinating.
The Idea Behind this TED Talk
The premise behind this talk was to show that as wealth increases, people tend to become more self-entitled and lose empathy and compassion for others. They illustrated this by talking about giving. People in the lower income tiers tend to give way more than those in the upper income tiers. People that have a lower wealth status care more for others than those with higher wealth. It basically comes down to money making you mean. As your wealth increases, you focus more on yourself. You work harder to increase your wealth and make sure that you are on top. They even found that people with more wealth condone more unethical behavior compared to those with little wealth.
Here is the full TED Talk to listen to. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.
What do you think about this concept? Does money make you mean? Are the wealthy in it for themselves? Have they lost their compassion for others?
Photo courtesy of: Dave Hamster