How Big Money Affects Psychology and Morality

We all ask ourselves whether big money would change our lives. But there is some science behind it. We find out more.

An engineer friend who by the time was in his early 30s, similar to many of us, got the itch to go independent. He was working for a multinational company as a senior corporate manager. 

This man’s life has been full of coincidences. In fact, even the job he’d landed with a conglomerate was most likely sheer luck since he’d sent his application as a lark without really meeting the requirements and didn’t expect to even reach the first round of interviews.

And lo and behold, out of the more than 300 candidates he got the job.

As any prudent person would do, by the time he decided to be an entrepreneur he first tested the waters by starting his venture as a secondary activity while still in his job. 

The business took off. 

His aim was to earn a decent enough livelihood without being over ambitious. Life had other plans. He succeeded beyond what he had intended. It was like he might have had the Midas touch for several years. 


Sharing The Joy 

He wanted to share the joy. First things first, he went about paying his employees way, way higher than market salaries, helped his extended family and friends and would even do random acts of kindness by lending a helping hand to those he didn’t know. 

Sponsored kids for higher education and loaned or gave away money to would be entrepreneurs. Life was good and he was surrounded by family and friends most of the time.

Then came the economic crash of 2008-2009, and overnight he lost all the financial security he’d built up.

It was payback time. 

He approached many of those who owed him. Those who were heavily indebted to him for large sums and had gone on to become rich with his help, including family, weaselled out quickly and those who owed him much smaller sums and were living modest lives themselves came good and paid him back even if it was in instalments.

Having known him closely and having had a good glimpse into his life and the way he was duped by many, I wondered if big money changes the psychology and morality of most. 


The Psychology of Money

Before you go feeling sorry for him, let me tell you he’s fine and never developed any kind of bitterness. He just treated it as a lesson and moved on, has a good partner in his wife, a select few friends and an occupation that he enjoys. The man we are talking about is different. 

Let’s see what studies have to say about the ones with big money.

Most of those driving expensive luxury cars, both men and women, have little consideration and cut through traffic and do not give way to pedestrians at designated crossings even after making eye contact with them. Studies have gone on to prove this ‘phenomenon’.  It happens all the time.

This study closely examined the upper and lower socioeconomic strata and found that the ones belonging to the lower socio economic state were more compassionate. 

They “are more attuned to others’ distress, relative to their upper-class counterparts”. Why the higher income group is called ‘upper class’ is beyond me. 

This study states, “As predicted, participants with a higher sense of power experienced less distress and less compassion and exhibited greater autonomic emotion regulation when confronted with another participant’s suffering.”

Many studies have gone on to prove that the richer ones are more unethical and dishonest.

Sometimes this dishonesty can border on absurdity. 

In this widely reported experiment, researchers kept a jar of individually wrapped sweets in front of a group of individuals belonging to different socio-economic strata. The participants in the experiment were clearly informed that the sweets were for children in a nearby laboratory but if they wanted they could take some. 

Did the rich help themselves to the sweets? Without a doubt. They took twice as many sweets compared to those from the lower income groups.

This was only about sweets. Care to speculate what happens when the stakes are higher?

Just a personal observation, big money and a sharp ego also gives one the idea of going hand in hand. Does this explain the rocket trips and the naked parties with very young ladies of the ultra rich?

It’s amusing to note that according to some, ego is only a manifestation of fear.

Let’s talk science, how about this on emotional intelligence:

High Emotional Intelligence: A Blessing or a Burden?

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