The Psychology of Wealth/Poverty and its Effect on Conduct

Very intriguing segment!

This UC Berkeley study observes the behavior of people, of all classes, in order to understand the psychological effects of absolute and relative poverty and wealth – aka Economic Inequality.

Key takeaways:

“People all the way at the top – $150-200K/year – were cheating 4x as much as people at the bottom – $15K/year.”

In a Monopoly game rigged so that the “rich” player cannot lose,

“the rich people felt entitled; they felt like they deserved to win. And that’s an incredible insight into what the mind does to make sense of advantage and disadvantage.” The player “starts to attribute success to [his/her] own individual skills and talents, and [they] become less attuned to all of the other things that contributed to them being in the position that they’re in.”


“If I take someone who is rich, and make them feel, psychologically, a little less well off, they become way more generous, way more charitable, way more likely to offer help to another person.”

Status vs Value || Social Standing and Rep vs Cash Money

Ultimately, it is also notable to correlate this 2008 research that suggests that $$$ and social status are evaluated (against each other) in the same part of the brain.

This is key, researchers say, because it provides evidence that our brains consider a good rep—as well as cash—to be rewarding and worth considering as we mull our options.

“We found that the brain reacts very strongly to the other players and specifically the status of the other players,” Zink says. “We weren’t expecting that profound a response,” she adds, noting that the subjects seemed to be concerned with the hierarchy within the game even when it was of no consequence to how much money they could make.

“Our position in social hierarchies strongly influences motivation as well as physical and mental health,” said Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH, in a press statement. He notes that this new insight into how the brain processes social standing may have important public health consequences.”


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