Research Shows Wealth and Selfishness Align


Rich WomanDoes money make us mean?

A recent article in New York Magazine shed light on the correlation between wealth and social skills. LearnVest covered some of the research a few months ago, focusing on the relationship between wealth and empathy. We dissected some of the findings of University of California at Berkeley researcher Paul Pilff and his team, who found that the wealthier you are, the less adept you might be at reading emotions.

But that’s not all. More studies show that wealth, brain behavior and social class have a lot more to do with one another than degrees of empathy.

Pilff’s research showed that those with high socioeconomic status tend to have a high interpersonal disregard. But this doesn’t show simply that the rich are mean and the poor are nice.

According to the research, the more money a person has, the more he behaves as if the world revolves around him. And the more self-centered a person is, the higher he ascends into society. On the other end of the spectrum, a person with a lower income considers the feelings of others more and prefers to blend in with his peers than stand out.

Psychologist Hazel Markus dissected the different mindsets of social classes and found that  the affluent value characteristics such as individuality, uniqueness and personal achievement, while the less affluent value homogeneity, group affiliation and harmonious relationships.

Her research went so far as to relate a person’s music taste with his socioeconomic status. Those with college educations are shown to like indie music because it values individuality, while those with a high-school education prefer country music for its group mentality. So what does that mean for those of us who prefer Top 40?

Music tastes aside, money means business. And according to Kathleen Vohs, a professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, money-primed people operate in “functionality mode.” Functionality mode brings success in the business world, but isolation and disinterest in the social world.

Having money might make us driven and self-centered, but it’s these same traits that contribute to making us successful and wealthy.

So, which came first: the money or the mindset?

  • futuremilitary


    Money changes people, not always for better or for worse. But I certainly think money can cause people to develop selfish tendencies.

    -Christian L.

  • Huggs1421

    I agree. Every high-level manager I’ve worked for has a “look out for number one” mentality that has made her successful.

  • Jaleh

    topic is thought provoking: I am uncertain if money becomes a pivotal role in
    selfish behavior. I notice some of the richest people endow entire towns; for
    example,Warren Buffet’s son Howard created a huge global charity to feed the
    hungry yet never experienced this level of poverty.  On the contrary, poor folks may have an
    inclination towards inter-dependency as a method for survival. I tend to think empathy
    develops more as a personality trait rather than a socio-economic one.

  • just sayin’

    “So what does that mean for those of us who prefer Top 40?”

    It means you are a 13-year-old girl, or that you have the maturity level of one.  ;-)

  • zemmer

    kk homos