I have always believed whether we do or don’t have piles of money our core values remain unchanged. In my mind, money is not the catalyst for bringing out the philanthropist or scrooge in us or the key to our dark and untrustworthy side.
To my surprise, a number of research articles I read recently strongly contradicted my viewpoint and pointed out how money DOES negatively influence our behaviour.
Some of the findings hit very close to home when I recognised some of my behaviours.
Take a look if you dare and see if money also brings out some of your dark side.
So you wont get out of bed for less than £10,000 ?
A 2004 study by James Heyman and Dan Ariely proved that money changes how you value your time and effort.
The two researchers carried out an experiment where three groups of subjects where asked to complete a simple task as many times as they could.
The first group was asked to complete the task as a favour, the second group was paid $0.50 per task completed and the third group was paid $5.00 for each completion.
Not surprisingly the third group completed a significant number of tasks, however not as many as the first group.
The researchers reached two significant conclusions from this. Firstly when money is not entered into the equation and people are given the opportunity for contributing something to society they are likely to see their time as a worthy investment. However as soon as the stakes are defined in monetary terms, time becomes a monetary commodity and we are disincentivized to work hard where we don’t feel we are sufficiently rewarded.
It’s nice to give, but you want something in return.
Psychological research suggests that wealthy people are less altruistic than people with less money. In fact the research highlighted that the philanthropy we see wealthy people engage in is generally status recognition driven. Their donations are typically to art museums, their university libraries and other self aggrandizing endeveavours.
In contrast, those of lesser means are more inclined to contribute more meaningfully and directly to those who need help.
University of California Social Scientists, Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner ran experiments testing this hypothesis. Their findings confirmed that empathy was largely driven by life experience suggesting those who had faced monetary challenges had to learn how to rely on others and were as a result much more conditioned to give back help. Wealthy individuals have less familiarity with the experience of needing resources and as a result have less understanding of how those outside their wealth stratosphere may be feeling and what they require.
Don’t they know who I am?
In San Francisco it is the law to stop at crosswalks and wait for pedestrians to cross. A UC Berkeley study found that drivers of luxury vehicles were 4x less likely to stop than other vehicles.
This linkage between money and moral apathy is not a new construct as history is full of evidence supporting the corruptive power of money. Bernie Madoff is one example of the more recent corrupt money grabbers.
Research has shown that it is not just having money that drives moral decay, just thinking about money can trigger the propensity to lie, steal and make unethical decisions.
The study, conducted by Kristin Smith-Crowe of the University of Utah, exposed a test group to money related words and concepts and then tested their actions when faced with some unethical choices. The test group proved more inclined to operate on the wrong side of ethics after this exposure.
Smith-Crowe concluded that everyday exposure to money as a measure of success is worryingly a more dangerously corrupting factor than researchers had previously believed.
Money and Addiction
Money is simply a tool and has no direct causal relationship to addiction however a number of studies have found that affluent children are more vulnerable to substance abuse possibly due to the high pressure society places on them to achieve or likely absence of parental influence. However the propensity to addiction is not limited to the children, it is suggested that rich adults out drink the poor by 27%.
Addiction, the playground of the rich
The drive for money and success in itself can become a compulsive behaviour. John D Moore a licensed counsellor, defines money addiction as “ prioritizing the hoarding of cash over important life activities including personal health and relationships.
This may present itself as having constant, repetitive thoughts about money. Engaging in behaviours which only revolve around money and potentially receiving it. Unhealthy money related activities such as compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping and engaging in risky high return ventures. Tying self worth to net worth and hoarding money and obsessively worrying about losing it.
Money doesn’t buy happiness
There is no research which can support a direct correlation between have excessive amounts of money and happiness. In fact it has been shown that once our basic needs and a certain level of comfort is taken care of, we are unlikely to experience an additional degree of happiness for the next £ earned. On the contrary extremely wealthy people have been shown to suffer from higher rates of depression and life dissatisfaction.
As I said in the introduction I was shocked that my belief in a strong moral compass is not a given, but what shocked me more is how many of these behaviours I may have to some extent adopted and gotten comfortable with.
The bending of my moral parameters when it comes to money related matters is not outside of the scope of activities I may have engaged in and I now see the influence that giving more meaning to money than it deserves may be having on my personality.
Remember, and this is as much a reminder to me as it is to you, money is simply a tool, don’t let it be your compass, take the driver’s seat and make sure that your money works for you in a way that is supportive of your values. Anything outside of that is an invitation to moral decay and unhappiness.