We’ve all heard the phrase that money is the “root of all evil.” You might understand this phrase more than other people. Some people start to develop a taste for money, while others see it as the door to greed. But no matter what you think about money, one fact never changes — you can’t live without it.
People need money for everything from a place to live to food for sustaining life. Sometimes people grow up poor and then find themselves rich. Other people grew up comfortably and continue to live the same way. You probably have different feelings and thoughts about money than other people you know, and this idea is typical because money changes the way you think and feel. Now, the question is, why and how – does money change people?
We broke down the many ways it does in our list below.
30. Continued Study Of How Money Changes People
For the past couple of decades, psychologists focused on several studies about the way people react towards money. They want to know why some poor people tend to give more than some who are wealthy. Psychologists want to understand why people start to treat themselves and other people differently when they become wealthy.
Throughout their studies, psychologists proved that money influences the way people think and act. They note that many people look at economic status as a way to show themselves to their neighbors, and once many people reach a high financial status, they start looking at the world differently.
Psychological studies prove that the more money people bring home, the more they start to rethink what equality truly means. Some people state that because they work hard for their money, they should receive different treatment from people who don’t work as hard or don’t work at all.
They can’t understand why people who don’t give their job everything they have, didn’t attend college, or didn’t work hard enough for that promotion should receive the same benefits and treatment as people who worked harder. This form of inequality doesn’t always focus on a person’s gender or race; it focuses on a person’s economic status.
One of the most significant snags psychologists ran into while conducting their studies was how to define and measure wealth. This became problematic because people think of wealth in different forms. Some people believe they are wealthy when they can pay all their bills on time and have a little money left over. They might still live paycheck to paycheck, but they are financially comfortable.
Other people look at wealth in terms of reaching their goals and see little value in money. However, some people believe that wealth means you don’t need to worry about how much money you spend. To find a solution, psychologists looked at wealth as a person’s job status, the scale of income, or socioeconomic circumstances.
Several studies, including one from Psychological Science, shows that people who gain a high economic status didn’t have the same amount of empathy and compassion that people with a lower financial status show.
According to studies, empathy is how a person responds to another person. For example, if you are sitting on a park bench and a stranger sits down on the other side and begins to cry, how will you react? When you show empathy, you become concerned about the person and will ask them if you can help them. When you don’t feel empathy, you’ll ignore the person or get up and walk away.
In the psychological studies, empathy and kindness often went together. While all economic classes showed emotion at times, the lower economic classes showed more compassion. The lower classes also revealed that they could judge a person’s facial expressions better. For instance, they could tell someone looked sad or angry easier than higher economic levels.
Michael Kraus, a co-author of the study, believes this is because lower classes need to be more aware of their surroundings. In an interview, he told Time, “Lower-class individuals have to respond chronically to several vulnerabilities and social threats. You really need to depend on others, so they will tell you if a social threat or opportunity is coming, and that makes you more perceptive of emotions.”
A psychological study completed at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that people who had more resources because of their wealth took part in more bad behavior. The researchers noted that people usually did not take part in serious crimes such as commit assaults or murder. Their behavior changed in the way they acted toward people, without getting violent.
The study showed that people with more real and fake money than others showed more aggression toward people. At one point in the study, researchers gave some participants more fake Monopoly money than others. The people who received more money felt a little embarrassed at first but soon started playing a more aggressive role in the game.
It is important to note, as the studies did, that just because you become wealthy does not mean you will become addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or anything else. There are people on all economic levels who face addiction. However, the studies also show that wealth links to addiction because people who have money can easily purchase what they want whenever they want.
The studies show that people who have money show a higher susceptibility to addiction problems. They don’t need to worry about where their money is going as much and can often take so much money every week and spend it at the casino, going to the bar, or buying unhealthy and fatty foods. Some studies concluded that the wealthy class could out-drink the poor class when it comes to alcohol by 27%.
You read about it too much in the papers – a child from a wealthy parent is in trouble for drug possession, DUI, or is shown to have a substance abuse problem. Of course, this can happen to anyone as addiction doesn’t focus on one economic class.
However, several studies prove that children who come from wealthy homes are more vulnerable to substance abuse problems because they are more isolated from their parents and feel more pressure to achieve success, even if their parents don’t necessarily push them to become successful. Children think they need to be as successful as their parents, and this becomes too much pressure.
22. Children From Wealthy Homes Internalize Problems
While the studies didn’t wholly focus on children, the results focused more on children because they surprised many researchers. Of course, another reason is that the researchers want to further their efforts to finding ways to help children cope so they don’t turn to substance abuse.
When going the lengths to find a common denominator to children and higher substance abuse problems, researchers noted that children who come from higher economic homes are more likely to internalize their problems. Part of this is because they feel more isolated from their parents, but there are several other reasons, such as they don’t adjust to new situations as well as children from lower economic homes.
It seems we can never get away from stereotypes in this world. No matter what economic class you are in, there are stereotypes. For example, some wealthy people see the lower level as beneath them. Some people go so far as to believe people are poor because they are uneducated and lazy. However, there is also a stereotype with a higher economic class.
The lower classes tend to view wealthy people as self-centered, cold, and uncaring. Poor people also see wealthy people as arrogant, while rich people see poor people as people who have too many problems. Of course, this isn’t a stereotype that everyone follows. Some people don’t believe in stereotypes, while other people do their best to understand the other person’s economic status.
It doesn’t matter what economic class the psychological studies looked at, they all have stereotypes about other classes, and some people didn’t care for anyone in a high economic level. Some people will point to this as jealousy, which is right in some cases.
However, there are also people in lower classes who don’t trust the wealthy class because of how a few wealthy people personally treated them. Some wealthy people don’t trust the lower level because they believe the lower class is more likely to become criminals.
19. ‘Lower Class’ Likes When Wealthy People Are Struggling
When it boils down to stereotypes and feelings towards a different economic class, some people like to know the other class is struggling. For example, the lower level wants to see the higher economic class struggle with their own stereotypes and problems. While some people say this is because it lets them know that everyone has their own problems, other people state it is because they deserve to struggle because the wealthy class is cold and uncaring.
People don’t usually want to see harm come to the other person; they simply want to see them struggle. Some people from the lower class like to read about well-known CEOs coming into money problems.
When the study looked at how different economic classes affect children, researchers looked at the myth that children who are born in a wealthy family have it all. It is easy for lower classes to look at children in a wealthy family and see that they have designer clothing, everything in fashion, new cars, and seemingly everything they want.
While many wealthy children have all the material possessions they want, they tend to struggle in other ways – in ways that many children in lower economic classes do not. Of course, this is not to say that children at any economic level can’t suffer from the same problems.
Psychological disorders and addiction are one and the same. People can suffer from both no matter how much money they make, but this doesn’t mean that one economic group doesn’t tend to suffer more than others. Studies prove that children who grow up rich are at a higher risk for psychological disorders, such as depression, eating disorders, or anxiety. They also tend to cheat and steal more because they have an image to hold, and they are afraid of people seeing them as less than their wealthy parents.
Psychologist Suniya Luthar states about the topic, “In upwardly mobile communities, children are often pressed to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits to maximize their long-term academic prospects—a phenomenon that may well engender high stress.”
People want power, and they tend to see that power in terms of money. Of course, this goes to show as most people don’t feel successful until they have money they can spend on whatever they want. However, this doesn’t mean that success and money will bring you everything. In fact, studies prove that money cannot buy love or happiness.
There is not one study conducted that links money to happiness or love. While people will start to feel less stressed when they make a certain amount of money, they still feel lonely, overworked, and many cite that they are more unhappy as a wealthy individual than they were in a lower economic class.
15. Materialism Linked To Lower Satisfaction In A Relationship
It seems that wealthy people have everything. They have a beautiful house, new cars, and can buy almost anything they want. They have all the material possessions they need and can often pay for people to take care of their home so they can focus on working, go on vacation, or become a socialite. People see photographs of happy, wealthy couples all the time and then become shocked when their names are in the divorce column in the paper.
Several studies prove that a couple who strives for wealth and material possessions are more likely to find themselves headed towards divorce. People who focus more on properties than on their marriage are linked with lower relationship satisfaction.
It’s an old saying – the more money people make, the more money they want. People never seem to have enough money, even when they make millions of dollars a year. Psychologist Dr. Tian Dayton states that this is because many people become addicted to money. Becoming wealthy becomes a compulsive behavior that people cannot control.
According to psychologists, when people become addicted to money, their brain reacts similarly to cash as it does with any other addiction, such as drugs or food. People simply don’t feel right if they don’t have the amount of cash they crave. They will also do anything they can to get what they want and will often turn to negative behaviors.
Ethics is vital in the business world as well as in your personal life. Without ethics, people won’t understand the difference between right and wrong. They will think it is okay to fudge their taxes, so they don’t have to pay the government as much money. They will start to cheat, and this behavior often leads them to break other rules.
One 2012 study published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America” focused on how the wealthy handle ethical situations. In conclusion, the study showed that people who are in a higher economic class tend to increase unethical behavior.
While people in lower economic classes also forget about ethics, the 2012 study showed that wealthy people do because they think that their money can keep them out of trouble. The study called this behavior “self-interest maximization” because people in the wealthy class started to think about what was in it for them and why they had to follow the same ethics as the lower class.
This is the attitude the wealthy take on when they start to work for themselves, and the only benefit they care about is how they can benefit themselves. However, the wealthy don’t always forget about ethics. The researchers noted that most people would throw ethics out the window when they came across someone who looked wealthier than they were. For example, they would cut off someone in a nicer and newer car.
The way people view themselves often focuses on how much money they make. For example, people in a lower economic class don’t always see themselves as worthy. They don’t believe that they can make more money because they don’t believe in themselves and don’t have the skills to succeed. Whereas wealthy people see themselves as successful and think they can achieve anything they set their mind to. They see themselves as deserving of the wealthy they receive because of how hard they work.
Of course, this depends on the individual as well. There are a lot of lower economic people who believe they are successful and have the skills to take them far, and there are many wealthy people who suffer from depression. It’s always important to remember that the studies are generalized and follow the majority.
In August 2013, the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” focused on a person’s self-image when it came to their wealth. Researchers asked participants to rate their genetics, class, and I.Q. when it came to how they see themselves. They also provided necessary information such as their income.
The wealthiest people responded that they believe they receive their wealth because of their genetics and identity. In a sense, many wealthy people saw themselves as entitled and thought they deserved their success. People of lower economic classes did not relate their wealth based on genetics and stated that they believe anyone can be poor or rich. They don’t necessarily find that everyone becomes rich or poor because of who they are.
9. The Wealthy Tend To Become More Self-Sufficient
A 2009 study completed by the Yale School of Management found that wealthy people tend to be more self-sufficient than people in lower economic classes. The study focused on two groups, several tasks with instructions, the ability to ask for help, and Monopoly money. One group received a lot more money than the other group, and each group knew how much the other group received in cash.
People who were part of the wealthy group often took time to figure out the task by themselves or with the help of instructions. The people in the more impoverished group took more time starting on the duties and would often ask for help if they felt they didn’t understand the instructions, or they couldn’t do it alone.
The 2009 Yale study decided that they needed to look at both sides of the workforce. Therefore, not only did they look at how well the two groups worked individually, but also as a team. Part of the study focused on how the two groups reacted when someone walked into their location with a pile of folders, pencils, and extra tasks.
The group with less Monopoly money jumped at the opportunity to help this person with additional tasks. They showed a lot of compassion and wanted to do whatever they could to work together and ensure the job got done. The wealthy group was less likely to offer their help, but several members of that group did eventually step up to the plate.
In 2004, researchers James Heyman and Dan Ariely looked at how motivated people were when it came to how much money they made on a task. Groups were split with one group receiving $0.50 to complete a job and the other group $5.
It didn’t take long for the researchers to realize that the more money they offered a group, the more motivated the group became to do well and receive their payment. When Heyman and Ariely measured the amount of time it took for each group to complete the task, the $5 group performed faster and worked harder than the other group.
During the 2004 study, James Heyman and Dan Ariely looked at how hard people worked in comparison to how much money they received. Even though the initial research focused on the work ethic between two groups, the researchers also wanted to look at the participants on a more individual basis.
After a questionnaire and watching the participants in the study, it became clear to the researchers that when people are paid what they feel they are worth, they work harder. If people think they deserve more money than what they receive, they won’t work as hard. This can easily affect a person when it comes to their work-life and what a company thinks of your work ethic.
By now, you probably have the idea that wealthy people feel more entitled than poor people. Several studies prove that wealthy people don’t always think clearly when it comes to moral judgment and sometimes believe that they are above the law. While this isn’t everyone in the higher economic class, several stories in the news also prove the study’s findings.
A University of California, Berkeley 2008 study focused on how wealthy people’s moral judgment becomes clouded by noticing specific actions, such as people in luxurious cars refusing to follow the law when it comes to stopping before a crosswalk. They tend to believe that pedestrians can go around their vehicles and they have the right away.
The University of California, Berkeley study not only focused on people’s actions when they actually made more money, but also on people’s thoughts. This study followed another study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah and Harvard, who focused on thinking and unethical behavior.
These studies concluded that participants engaged in lying, cheating, stealing, and other negative behaviors after exposure to money-related words. This meant that people don’t need to make a lot of money to show unethical or criminal behavior. They can change their behavior by merely thinking about having more money.
Kristin Smith-Crowe is a professor at the University of Utah, and one of the authors who conducted a study looking at how thinking about money affects a person’s behavior. When giving an interview about the findings of the survey to MarketWatch, Smith-Crowe stated that people will not always follow their moral code of right and wrong when money is a factor.
She stated, “Even if we are well-intentioned, even if we think we know right from wrong, there may be factors influencing our decisions and behaviors that we’re not aware of.”
One of the positive outcomes of the several studies completed that focus on how people react in comparison to their wealth is that people are starting to become more aware of their view with money.
People in all economic classes are starting to realize their judgments on themselves and other people. They are beginning to look beyond the dollar sign when it comes to status and focus more on what can be done to help people and change the world.
Sometimes people don’t realize that they are in the trap of believing their success is solely based on one’s economic status. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are only successful if you make $100,000 or more a year, wear a suit to work, or work for a prestigious company.
However, it’s essential to take a step back and forget about what society and other people tell you what it means to become successful. To realistically be successful, you need to look at your version of success.
“How Money Can Change People and Affect Their Behavior.” Jacqueline Curtis, Money Crashers.
“How money changes us, and not for the good.” Chris Taylor, Reuters. February 2016.
“How Money Changes the Way You Think and Feel.” Carolyn Gregoire, Greater Good Magazine. February 2018.
“Having a Lot of Money Changes Your Personality.” Alexandra Ossola, Vice. May 2017.