The relationship between money and human behaviour has long been debated. While financial success can provide comfort and security, does it also have the potential to influence behaviour, like compassion and generosity?
Several studies have suggested that as people accumulate wealth, they may exhibit behaviours that are less altruistic and compassionate than those who have less money.
Social psychologist Professor Paul Piff researches the impact of wealth on empathy. Utilising a widely recognised assessment tool in the field of psychology known as the dictator test, he assembled a group of participants, providing some of them with $10 each. He told them that they could share with another participant who received none. Piff says that rational economics would suggest that the poorer person should keep a larger portion for themselves, while the more affluent person should be more inclined to share.
However, the findings were the opposite. In fact, the poorer people in the experiment gave 150 per cent as much as the richer participants. Professor Kathleen Vohs suggests this finding has something to do with the way we think about money. Vohs says even just thinking about money invokes a "self-sufficient mindset" reflecting the fact money is all about transactions with strangers and calculating your best interest. Money is not typically a factor in our interactions with our closest friends and family. Therefore, money can enhance our determination but can also reduce our sensitivity to the needs and emotions of others.
It's interesting to think about how this might be playing out in the real world.
Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists. newpsych.com.au