How the power of money affects human behaviour 1


Does money make you happy?

The search for the effect of money on the pursuit of happiness seems to be an open-ended question. Does wealth cause carefreeness and hence happiness? Research has been investigating in this field, but also in another one. A far more interesting one.

Because money can –or cannot- make you happy. But does it make you mean?

Economic wealth vs. ethical wealth

Social psychologist Paul Piff asked himself this question during his research at the UC, Berkeley, and carried out some eye-opening experiments to test if economical wealth negates ethical wealth.

Starting with a harmless children’s game, Piff divided the players into privileged and non- privilieged ones. He shared the shocking results in his TED Talk: privileged players developed a far more dominant and aggressive behavioral pattern than the less privileged ones. In fact, the majority adopted a rude attitude to even the most trivial issues, demonstrating their power in every game move possible. For example the “richer” players begann to snach much more excessively than the other ones.

What starts as a lovely story about people playing a board game turns out to be a metaphor for the game of life itself.

Who are the wealthy, the privileged, the lucky ones? And at whose expense have they been excessively snacking from the international economy’s table?

Let’s leave Piff’s social experiement for a minute and take a look at the facts:
90% of the world’s total wealth is concentrated among only 20% of its population, leaving more than 5.600.000.000 people struggling for the 10% that are left over.
And while 8 out of 10 persons on this planet fight for their survival, at the very same moment and only a dice roll away, 48% of the global wealth is owned by the richest 1%. For everyone thinking right now about the typical North-South divide or buzzwords like ,,Third-World” versus ,,Developed-World”, be aware that the gap between privileged and non-privileged is becoming bigger and bigger in countries considered wealthy on an international level, too.

But this is not a gap of abstract numbers and complex data: Zooming in again to Piff’s TED Talk, he elaborates how his study indicates that richer people are less likely to share their wealth, while their empathy level is on a decline. Thus, wealthier people have a higher tendency to lie, cheat, and look away in times of their neighbour’s need.

So in the end we have to ask ourselves: Does having to survive in a wealthier society has made us more competitive, more selfish, more mean? And are less wealthy societies more compassionate and empathetic?

Enjoy Paul Piff’s wake-up call TED Talk about the evil of inequality and the elegant way to fight back.


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One thought on “How the power of money affects human behaviour

  • Adam Soul

    Really appreciate your article here about Paul Piff’s findings on the effects of money on people. I have used your article in reference to things I’ve said about money. I have many interesting observations about money and will present them on my website.