Does Being Rich Make You Mean?

Playing Monopoly reveals the truth! Being wealthy makes you self-entitled, rude, and uncharitable!

Poor people are just nicer. But then, maybe that’s why their poor.

I feel skeptical. Not necessarily that all the data is wrong or cooked or perhaps not revelatory, and the tendency of human beings to attribute clearly “rigged” advantages in a situation to their own virtue or hard work is an objective truth (most of us, I suspect, have seen it all our lives).

But I just get the sense that the guy doing the presentation already has settled on his desired conclusions, and perhaps things are more complicated than the talk displays. For example, could it be that people who obtain wealth without work are ruder and less charitable, but those that work hard and are well-rewarded for their hard work are nicer and more charitable than your average non-wealthy person.

People in more expensive cars are more prone to break traffic laws or threaten pedestrians? I have a hard time believing that’s much more than coincidence.

Speaking of mean wealthy people . . . are gay people mean? They must be, if gay people are all rich!

Freakonomics takes on the myth of homosexuality = wealthy. Well, at least for gay men.

5 Responses

  1. I assume you saw this related piece that’s been making the rounds.

    Edit: The ultimate in pseudo science:

    “But compassion can also be empirically measured, because it manifests in facial expressions and a slowing of the heart rate.”


    • jnc:

      The ultimate in pseudo science:

      I got a kick out of this one:

      Vohs got her result only after the ­subject believed the session was over. Heading for the door, he would bump into a person whose arms were piled ­precariously high with books and office supplies. That person (who worked for Vohs) would drop 27 tiny yellow pencils, like those you get at a mini-golf course. Every subject in the study bent down to pick up the mess. But the money-primed subjects picked up 15 percent fewer pencils than the control group. In a conversation in her office in May, Vohs stressed that money-priming did not make her subjects malicious—just disinterested. “It’s not a bad analogy to think of them as a little autistic,” she said. “I don’t think they mean any harm, but picking up pencils just isn’t their problem.”

      OK, so let’s do the math on this one. Tellingly, they don’t give us the absolute numbers involved, so we don’t know how many pencils the control group picked up on average, but the very most the difference between what the control group picked up and what the “money primed” people picked up could have been is 4, if the control group picked up all 27 pencils. And of course the fewer the number picked up by the control group, the less the absolute difference between that and the number picked up by the “money primed” group. So at worst, if we assume the very maximum relative “disinterest” displayed by the money primed people, that means that the “money-primed” people picked up 23 out of the 27 pencils that fell. And this leads the researcher to conclude that “money primed” people think that “picking up pencils just isn’t their problem.”

      Now that is a solid, scientific conclusion.


  2. Who needs science? They’re just saying what everyone intuitively knows…


  3. Hence why I disregard “social science” as a science.


  4. ScottC: “Now that is a solid, scientific conclusion”

    Indeed. Money makes me mean. I’m sweet as pie when I’m trying to figure out how to pay my bills and can’t make one end meet the other. When I’ve got cash, and everything is paid off and I’m comfortable in life, I become a total asshole.

    I don’t disregard social science as a science, but it’s pretty clear that certain people really want a certain outcome. I’ve known some people with money who were complete assholes (indeed, I think most of the wealthy people I’ve directly encountered or dealt with that were wealthy were also kind of dicks). However, I have a hard time thinking that the money created that; I’m pretty sure they were that way to begin with. Anecdotally, some of them ended up poorer but weren’t any better human beings for it. 😉

    Also, there’s a lot of research into “priming” effects. To me, they seem to be transient and not terribly significant. Even if you are “money primed” into picking up 4 less pencils somehow, it’s a transient effect that will fade almost immediately, the way you quickly recover from getting misty during a sad scene in a movie. Although 4 less pencils could be a matter of where the pencils landed, too.

    @jnc4p: I’m pretty sure compassion can be measured objectively by the degree to which you support higher taxes and liberal political candidates. 😉


Be kind, show respect, and all will be right with the world.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: