Does Money Make you Mean?

Think about playing a game of Monopoly, except in this game, that combination of skill, talent and luck that help earn you success in games, as in life, has been rendered irrelevant, because this game's been rigged, and you've got the upper hand.

You've got more money, more opportunities to move around the board, and more access to resources.

And as you think about that experience, I want you to ask yourself:

How might that experience of being a privileged player in a rigged game change the way that you think about yourself and regard that other player?

PP of Tedtalk ran a study on the U.C. Berkeley campus to look at exactly that question.

They brought in more than 100 pairs of strangers into the lab, and with the flip of a coin randomly assigned one of the two to be a rich player in a rigged game - 

1. They got two times as much money.
2. When they passed Go, they collected twice the salary.
3. They got to roll both dice instead of one, so they got to move around the board a lot more.

Over the course of 15 minutes, they watched through hidden cameras what happened.

Here is a little bit of what they saw. 

Rich Player: How many 500s did you have?
Poor Player: Just one.

And as the game went on, one of the really interesting and dramatic patterns that they observed begin to emerge was that:

Rich players actually started to 
1. become ruder toward the other person
2. less and less sensitive to the plight of those poor, poor players
3. more likely to showcase how well they're doing - more and more demonstrative of their material success.

Rich Player: I have money for everything.
Poor Player: How much is that?

Rich Player: You owe me 24 dollars. You're going to lose all your money soon. I'll buy it. I have so much money. I have so much money, it takes me forever.

Rich Player 2: I'm going to buy out this whole board.

Rich Player 3: You're going to run out of money soon. I'm pretty much untouchable at this point.

What's really, really interesting, is that at the end of the 15 minutes, they asked the players to talk about their experience during the game. 

The rich players talked about why they had inevitably won in this rigged game of Monopoly:

1. They talked about what they'd done to buy those different properties and earn their success in the game
2. They became far less attuned to all those different features of the situation (including that flip of a coin that had randomly gotten them into that privileged position in the first place.)

It's a really, really incredible insight into how the mind makes sense of advantage.

Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for understanding society and its hierarchical structure - Some people have a lot of wealth and a lot of status, and a lot of people don't - they have a lot less wealth and a lot less status and a lot less access to valued resources.

Effects of these kinds of hierarchies 

What they have found across dozens of studies and thousands of participants is that:

A 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. 

In surveys, they found that:
Wealthier individuals who are more likely to moralize greed being good, and that the pursuit of self-interest is favorable and moral. 

Why should we care about those implications, and end with what might be done?

Personally for me, money wealth or any advantage, should not affect anyone's character.

Your character is who you are, whether you are rich or poor.
Your character is who you are whether you are happy or suffering....

It is the little choices that we make, that makes us who we are....

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