Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Psychological Effects of Money

Wealth has its perils, especially if you are trying to live "the good life" according to Aristotle. The results of several groundbreaking empirical studies reveal that people of means are, well . . mean. And what they lack in ethics, they sure make up for in the moral certitude department.

The richer, more superior, and thus entitled the folks in these experiments are made to feel, the more likely they are to lie, cheat and steal. They become increasingly prone to attributing their successes and (unearned) advantages to individual greatness, not accidents of birth, circumstance or history - or in this case, a blatantly rigged monopoly game.

Unsurprisingly, when a reversal of fortune demotes them from riches to rags, the wealthy become instantly kinder and more generous. With the world no longer trod-able underfoot, kindness and compassion become key to survival.  

These experiments offer fascinating insight into the mindset of a status driven, wealth obsessed society like our own. Which by the way is experiencing the highest level of wealth inequity in over a century (the highest amongst all advanced OECD nations in the world). Extreme economic disparities aren't good for anyone. You don't need to be a scientist to understand why, but these experts do some invaluable explaining by excavating the deep psychological machinery and systems of thought at work in our lives and society.

To slay the ogre of greed, we first have to understand it.