The psychology of inequality — a datum

“A famous experiment at Harvard University’s School of Public Health in 1995. In it, a group of students and faculty were asked to choose between earning $50,000 per year while everyone else earned $25,000 — or earning $100,000 per year while others made $200,000. The researchers stipulated that prices of goods and services would be the same in both cases, so a higher salary really meant being able to own a nicer home, buy a nicer car, or do whatever else they wanted with the extra money. However, the results showed that those materialistic perquisites mattered little to most people: Fifty-six percent chose the first option, hypothetically forgoing $50,000 per year simply to maintain a position of relative affluence.”

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2 thoughts on “The psychology of inequality — a datum

  • January 15, 2018 at 7:25 am
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    It is possible that some of participants just do not want to live in a reality where their pay does not reflect what they perceive their relative ability to be. Giving up some amount of wealth for a world where people are paid according to the value they provide would be a pretty good trade.

  • January 15, 2018 at 8:09 am
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    Not shocking in the least. Look at the number of people who go into debt “keeping up with the Joneses”. Look at the number of people who do things merely because everyone else does them. The entire lawn care industry is built around this sort of nonsense–lawns as we know them originated in English estates, and their rise in the USA is an interesting case of attempting to ape the aristocracy. Watch TV for an hour–most advertisements aren’t selling products anymore, they’re selling fear of not having the product.

    The sad fact is that most people don’t evaluate their lives based on what is good or bad for their lives. They evaluate their lives based on how their lives compare to other people’s lives.

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