Going from rags to riches is essentially the American Dream. Whether it’s through a better-paying job or winning the lottery, some studies suggest that money can change your behavior, and not always for the better. Of course, there are many charitable, helpful and generous people.
However, the results of some studies have shown that they may be the exception rather than the rule. Your thoughts, behavior, and actions are all tied to your psychology, which is made up of a number of factors ranging from your genetic makeup to how you were raised.
While money doesn’t exactly shape your belief system, it can influence the way you think and act toward others. Gaining a better understanding of the influence that money, or lack thereof, can have on your behavior can make you more aware of when you might be pulling your strings and hopefully help you learn how to stop it.
Ways Money Affects Behavior
From your relationships to the way you see yourself, cash can have a big influence on your beliefs. There are numerous pieces of scientific evidence behind the idea that money really can change people.
1. Social and Business Value
study showed that money alters the way you value your time and effort. Researchers James Heyman and Dan Ariely created an experiment whereby they could measure how motivated a person was to complete a task based on money. Subjects were asked to drag circles across a computer screen. One group was asked to do this as a “favor.”
Another group was asked to do it for $0.50 and the last group was offered $5. After the subjects were timed, it was actually the group that was asked to perform the task as a favor that did it the fastest. Next was the $5 pool and last was the $0.50 pool.
Heyman and Ariely surmised that there are two motivations for completing a given task. The first is social. Recognizing the social value of a task, we see it as a valuable investment of time and a part of our social duty, and we are usually happy to help. However, when money is offered as motivation, we begin to think less about the social aspect and more about the commercial value. So, we measured our time against the monetary reward, which may be why the $0.50 group was the slowest: they simply thought their time and effort was worth more money.
It is clear to see that money can be a motivator when it comes to determining value. While doing something for free as a favor has a positive connotation, that part of the brain shuts down when money is introduced. This could have serious repercussions on your work life. If you feel you deserve more money, you may underperform as a result.
2. Self-Reliance and Service
Those who are money-conscious generally strive to be more self-sufficient than those for whom money is not a priority, at least that’s what a 2009 Yale School of Management study found. The studio was structured around Monopoly money. One group of subjects entered a room that had various reminders of money, such as Monopoly cash on the table, statements about money, and even financial conversations. The second group of subjects entered a room where money was not mentioned, and both received a test.
When given a very difficult or even impossible task, with instructions that help was available, it was the money-related group that seemed most determined to do the job alone, even when it was not possible to complete the task alone. The penniless group, on the other hand, tended to ask for help. The study concluded that money-conscious people are more self-sufficient than their peers, particularly when money is the center of attention.
The Yale study went on to measure how money affected a person’s behavior using the same groups to illustrate compassion and service in both money-worried subjects and subjects in a money-free environment. When a seemingly uninvolved person crossed their path with a bunch of folders and pencils and then dropped them, it was the group that wasn’t reminded of the money that was most helpful. The group worried about money was less likely to offer and seek help with a task.
3. Self view
The amount you earn could have an effect on how you see yourself and others. A study published in an August 2013 issue of the ” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ” asked people to rate things like class, genetics, and even IQ. When the results were analyzed, they were defined as an individual’s sense of ‘class essentialism’. – the idea that differences between classes are based on identity and genetics, rather than circumstances.
The wealthiest respondents were those with the deepest sense of class essentialism. Poor people tended to believe that class was not related to genes, that essentially anyone can be rich and anyone can be poor.
Rich people, on the other hand, were more likely to believe that wealth was part of genes and identity, that they were entitled to wealth based on their personal circumstances and actions. Wealthy respondents also believed that life is more or less fair and that most people get what they deserve.
When doing your taxes, do you report them perfectly, or do you think it’s acceptable to tweak the numbers a bit? A 2012 study published in an issue of ” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ” asked whether wealth and the perception of an upper class might increase an individual’s engagement in unethical behavior.
From cutting off another vehicle at a stop sign, to cheating at a game, to taking more candy than was offered, wealthier subjects were the most likely to break the rules, even when one researcher indicated that taking more candy would result in less for the children.
The study’s authors, Paul K. Piff , et al., noted that those who perceived themselves as belonging to a higher class were the most likely to engage in unethical behavior, particularly when a symbol of wealth was introduced , such as blocking the path of a pedestrian. when in a luxury car, for example.
The study labeled the behavior “self-interest maximization,” an idea that suggests those who have more money or occupy higher classes are more likely to take a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. They actively work to get the most benefit for themselves. The study notes that these people make excellent business leaders, as they are often the ones who work the hardest to get the most out of a contract or job.
Many addictions start because a person gets a positive response from a certain type of behavior. Whether it’s a feeling of happiness that comes from shopping or the excitement that comes from gambling, actively pursuing that behavior over and over again to get the same result can trigger an addiction. This is called “behavioral or process addiction”: compulsive behavior not motivated by dependency on an addictive substance, but by a process that leads to an apparently positive outcome.
Earning money can be very addictive for some people. That high from a big check or a fat savings account can become a wealth seeker’s sole purpose in life, warns Dr. Tian Dayton, a clinical psychologist. She warns that the positive feeling that follows getting money can cause a feel-good chemical reaction in the brain. In turn, it can lead to serious preoccupation with money and put pressure on relationships outside of those related to earning more.
Final Words on Money Can Change People and Affect Their Behavior
It doesn’t matter if you were born rich or won the lottery, money can affect the way you act, and some of those effects can be inherently negative. Still, by being aware of the social pitfalls of wealth, such as lack of compassion, class conflict, isolation, and declining ethics, you can protect yourself from being affected by some of the negative aspects of having money.
Committing to volunteering, donating funds to a charity of your choice, and expanding your social circle to include friends from a variety of income levels can help you do something positive with your money and make the most of it.
While there is plenty of evidence that money does change people, your mileage may vary. There are a number of socioeconomic factors that could skew the study results, including age, race, educational level, location, and personal attitudes toward money.
It’s true that being considered “rich” can change your mindset, but it can’t change your genetics, identity, propensity for hard work, or family background. In the end, your ideals and values are likely to determine more about you than the size of your paycheck.
Do you think money changes people?