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how does abundance make people behave?

In this series on the psychology of matters we're looking over the effects of abundance and scarcity on the mind. Last week we looked at scarcity, but this week we're looking at the effects of abundance.

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Next week we'll explore the six money personality types.

Wealthy people get a bad rap

In a Tedx talk, Paul Piff states “As a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases,”.

Through surveys and studies, Piff and his colleagues have found that wealthier individuals are more likely to moralise greed and self-interest as favourable, less likely to be prosocial, and more likely to cheat and break laws if it benefits them.

I'm wary of Piff's studies because they sound incredibly biased and clickable, but here is one of his studies.

"Finding #1: We rationalize advantage by convincing ourselves we deserve it

The study: In a UC Berkeley study, Piff had more than 100 pairs of strangers play Monopoly. A coin-flip randomly assigned one person in each pair to be the rich player: they got twice as much money to start with, collected twice the salary when they passed go, and rolled both dice instead of one, so they could move a lot farther. Piff used hidden cameras to watch the duos play for 15 minutes.

The results: The rich players moved their pieces more loudly, banging them around the board, and displayed the type of enthusiastic gestures you see from a football player who’s just scored a touchdown. They even ate more pretzels from a bowl sitting off to the side than the players who’d been assigned to the poor condition, and started to become ruder to their opponents. Moreover, the rich players’ understanding of the situation was completely warped: after the game, they talked about how they’d earned their success, even though the game was blatantly rigged, and their win should have been seen as inevitable. 'That’s a really, really incredible insight into how the mind makes sense of advantage,' Piff says."

The thing is abundance is not only about having excessive amounts of something but rather having enough to feel satisfied, secure, and fulfilled, in all areas of life from material abundance to emotional abundance. Cultivating an abundance mindset can lead to a more optimistic and grateful approach to life, fostering an appreciation for what one has and promoting a willingness to share and contribute to the well-being of others.

According to Forbes, when you compare the personality traits of the general population with those of the researchers’ wealthy interviewees, the following patterns emerge:

  • The rich are emotionally more stable, and therefore less neurotic

  • The rich are especially extraverted

  • The rich are more open to new experiences

  • The rich are less agreeable, which means they less likely to shy away from conflicts

  • The rich are more conscientious.

In addition to the Big Five test, the researchers also investigated two other personality traits: narcissism and internal locus of control. Their findings:

  • The rich are more narcissistic

  • The rich exhibit a stronger internal locus of control. This means that they are more likely to agree with statements such as “I determine how my life turns out” than they are with statements like “What you achieve in life is mainly a question of luck or fate.”

Not everyone who is in a situation of abundance will necessarily exhibit all these behaviours, and individual attitudes and actions can differ significantly based on personal values, upbringing, and life experiences. Also, behaviours overall could be impacted by scarcity with things other than money like love or challenge.

It's clear an abundance mindset allows people to take more risks and a self-centric world view, but is that such a bad thing?

When you can look at what your actions caused in a situation you can do better the next time.

We all get rolls on the Monopoly board, but I've noticed a lot of people around me who don't take them- even when they are freely offered.

Maybe you don't want to be rich, but most of you will want to be secure. You are in control of that. Of course a lot of money is down to luck, but the more you try the luckier you will get.


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