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Psychologists find that just the thought of cash can lead to selfish acts.

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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 06:21 PM
Original message
Psychologists find that just the thought of cash can lead to selfish acts.
Thoughts of money lead to selfish acts, study finds

Psychologists find that just the thought of cash can lead to selfish acts.

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 18, 2006
A team of psychologists has discovered why money can't buy happiness.

Pictures of dollar bills, fantasies of wealth and even wads of Monopoly money arouse feelings of self-sufficiency that result in selfish and often antisocial behavior, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.

All it took to discourage college students from contributing to a University Student Fund were 15 short phrases such as "a high-paying salary." Those primed by money-related phrases donated an average of 77 cents, compared with $1.34 for students exposed to neutral phrases like "it is cold outside."

"The mere presence of money changes people," said Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study.

Money makes it possible for people to achieve their goals without having to ask friends or acquaintances for help. Therefore, Vohs and her colleagues theorized that even subtle reminders of money would inspire people to be self-reliant and to expect such behavior from others.

A series of nine experiments confirmed their hypothesis. For example, students who played Monopoly and then were asked to envision a future with great wealth picked up fewer dropped pencils for a fellow student than those who were asked to contemplate a hand-to-mouth existence.

In another experiment, students spent six minutes completing a questionnaire on a computer before a screensaver suddenly appeared. Students who saw fish swimming across their screens later moved their chairs an average of 2 feet, 8 inches from a compatriot, while those who saw currency floating underwater stayed more than 3 feet, 10 inches away.

Money also influenced how people said they preferred to spend their leisure time. A poster of bills and coins prompted students to favor a solitary social activity, such as private cooking lessons, while students sitting across from posters of seascapes and gardens were more likely to opt for a group dinner.

"Money changes people's motivations," said coauthor Nicole Mead, a psychology graduate student at Florida State University. "They are less focused on other people. In this sense, money can be a barrier to social intimacy."

Perhaps their next study will examine whether money is indeed the root of all evil.

2006 Los Angeles Times
(Editor's note: The writer of this article misquoted the Bible. It's not "money is indeed the root of all evil," but, as it says in 1 Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.")
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dweller Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 06:53 PM
Response to Original message
1. Counter-intuitive it would seem
since benevolence benefits. Perhaps this is a study in abnormal psych...

(and yes, it is 'the love of $ is the root of all evil' ... another abnormal trait)

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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Benevolence *sometimes* benefits
As social creatures, neither complete selfishness nor complete altruism is a winning long-term strategy. It's a matter of finding the right balance, with tricky "prisoner's dilemma" types of issues along the way.
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dweller Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 10:02 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. I'll digress
in disagreement. Complete altruism is a means to the end, for i would give the shirt off my back to my enemy or anyone else in need. I have nothing to lose but a cloth. But in the act, everything to give.

afterall, it's the thought that counts.

The fact remains that as 'social creatures' we are given clues to behavior that we follow, and following another path, even alone, has its rewards.

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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 10:29 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. You're talking more about idealism than reality, however.
The post you responded to was about a scientific study of human psychology. You might have ideals about how humanity should be, but when it comes to our basic, biological nature, not to mention pretty well-known aspects of the reality of human nature, it's hardly "counter intuitive", as you put it, that we don't always respond with the most altruistic of actions and feelings.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 11:44 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. I'm having a hard time
putting your replies into perspective with the study results. IOW, I'm not sure where you're coming from.

The example you give of "give the shirt off my back" would seem to indicate agreement with the study. Someone who has only his shirt to give would be more inclined to do so than someone who has a whole stockpile of shirts. At least that the suggestion of the study.

It would also seem to be a truism, in this study, that people do not have altruism in mind when they are seeking stacks of cash. Philanthropy may be something that is developed only once someone has adjusted to a comfort level of wealth, whatever that might be in an individual situation.

On a strictly practical level, a mound of cash will never be possessed by someone who is constantly giving away everything that comes into his possession. One could have their immediate needs met, passing along anything remaining. But the end result would not be possessing money for the sake of possession.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 11:22 AM
Response to Original message
6. We are like
fish that can't see the water we're swimming in. These studies are just controlling for the water and measuring responses to it.

Those who enjoy abundance of any kind are more able to be generous. Those who suffer scarcity are unable to be generous. Silent3 mentions the prisoners dilemma and the need for balance between personal advantage and altruism. If a culture has too many takers or givers it will not survive. Studies in game theory have been very interesting in that regard.

Since we humans have memories of the past and hopes for the future, we quickly prognosticate about what someone should do based on knowledge of available resources and the needs of the individual balanced against the needs of others with differing resources. Those prognostications lead us to determine what someone "ought" to do. That's where we find ethics. And God. And Satan. And heaven and hell and all the other forevers the human imagination has been able to produce.

We don't necessarily need to give generously to God, defend God, or fear God's unpredictable wrath. Survival requires us to do so regarding our fellow humans.
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