Category: Money

People Think That Individual Billionaires Are More Deserving Than “The Rich” As A Group

By Emily Reynolds

Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates… if you’re looking for motivation or personal inspiration, it’s likely that you’ll see quotes from rich, prominent people. At the same time, there seems to be growing discontent with the levels of inequality in the world — a discontent seemingly at odds with the worship of wealthy people we see in the media and online.

A new study, published in PNAS, explores this disconnect. It finds that even as we see the wealth of billionaires as a group as unfair, we remain tolerant of the achievements and wealth of individuals. And this also has an impact on the policies and positions people are willing to support.

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People Will Pay Money To Avoid Having To Exert Self-Control

By Emily Reynolds

Self-control — or lack of it — can have a serious impact on our lives. Poor self-control can lead to feelings of loneliness, while those with higher levels of self-discipline experience states like hunger and tiredness less intensely. Yet despite these obvious benefits, the vast majority of us sometimes experience failures in self-control no matter how hard we try.

A new study, published in PNAS, looks to quantify the cost of self-control. Candace M. Raio and Paul W. Glimcher from the New York University School of Medicine find that we’re willing to pay a monetary price to avoid having to exert self-control — and we’ll pay more if the temptation is particularly strong.

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The “Maybe Favour”: We More Readily Commit To Helping A Stranger If We Might Not Have To Follow Through

By Emma Young

Imagine that a neighbour asks for a favour — to help move some garden furniture at the weekend, say. Now imagine that, instead, they explain that they’d lined up a friend to help, but that friend has become ill, and you’ll only be required if they’re not better in time.

Rather than a firm favour, this second scenario involves what the authors of a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied dub a “maybe favour”. And, Michael K. Zurn at the University of Cologne and colleagues report, we are more likely to agree to grant these favours than ones that we know for sure we’ll have to come good on. This might not be surprising in itself — but the team goes on to show that exploiting the “maybe favour” effect could have big implications for society.

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We’re More Likely To Steal From Large Groups Than From Individuals

By Emma L. Barratt

We’re all aware of the financial disparity that plagues our economic systems. Many of those at the top of large corporations seem content to exploit large groups of people for their own significant financial gain.

Strangely, this is somewhat at odds with previous research in behavioural economics, which tends to find that people are generally quite prosocial, honest, and overall unwilling to steal considerable amounts from others. From results like these, it’s difficult to piece together exactly how we’ve arrived at such levels of financial inequality.

Psychologists have floated a number of potential explanations for this phenomenon. Perhaps those who end up rich have innately higher levels of psychopathy, for example. Or perhaps it’s the case that the cultural norms within certain businesses change the way people make economic decisions. However, new research in Nature Human Behaviour from Carlos Alós-Ferrer and colleagues suggests an alternative explanation: when it comes to acting selfishly, we are much more likely to do it at a grand scale than a small one.

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Diversity Grants Can Discourage Diverse Candidates From Applying For More Lucrative Scholarships

By Emma L. Barratt

It’s no secret that marginalised groups face barriers in educational settings that the able-bodied, male, and racially privileged largely do not. Issues pertaining to access, sense of belonging, potential discrimination, and financial difficulties can add often insurmountable layers of complexity to applying for further education.

Efforts to address this in recent years have crystallised into a number of measures, including the wide adoption of diversity and inclusion grants. These provide financial support specifically for selected individuals from marginalised groups, in order to give them a more equal footing with applicants from privileged backgrounds.

However, recent research from Adriana L. Germano and colleagues at The University of Washington has illustrated some unintended flaws with this approach. In stark contrast with the ethos behind diversity and inclusion initiatives, these grants may be serving to make applications to prestigious scholarships even less diverse than before.

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Tackling Income Inequality Could Boost Children’s Vocabulary

By Emily Reynolds

In 1995, a seminal book was published suggesting that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were exposed to 30 million fewer words than richer children by the age of 4 — the so-called “word gap”. The idea is now widespread and has informed early childhood policy in the United States (though the findings are more contentious than this ubiquity might suggest).

But why might these kids be exposed to fewer words? A new study from a team at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that worries about financial insecurity reduced the amount that caregivers spoke to their small children, suggesting that these concerns themselves could be at least partly responsible for the word gap.

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Can’t Buy Happiness? Research On Money, Digested

By Emma Young

Poverty can have long-lasting psychological effects. But for people who live above the poverty line, expectations about how much money we should have or need, as well as decisions about what to spend our money on and what to save for the future, can all affect psychological wellbeing, too. However, some well-worn ideas about this are being challenged, as we explore here.

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Regular Gamblers Turned To Online Gambling During The Pandemic

By Emily Reynolds

Gambling is big business in the UK. According to NHS Digital, 57% of men and 54% of women reported gambling in 2018, while the Gambling Commission suggests that online gambling grew by 8.1% from 2019 to 2020.

During the pandemic, gambling changed quite significantly: while consumers could still buy scratchcards and lottery tickets in supermarkets and off licenses, betting shops were closed and sports matches cancelled, leading many activities to move entirely online. And according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol, although the British public gambled less overall during lockdown, among regular gamblers, rates of online gambling increased substantially. 

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People Prefer More Attractive Financial Partners — Even Ones Who Lose Them Money

By Emma Young

Physically attractive people are routinely judged to be “superior” in other ways — to be more trustworthy, for example, and honest, and intelligent. However, evidence for the unwarranted “attractiveness halo” effect has tended to come from studies that have involved snap-judgements with no feedback or repercussions for the people doing the judging. Gayathri Pandey and Vivian Zayas at Cornell University, US, wanted to explore how this bias plays out in the longer term, when contradicted by actual data. If, say, we’re given information that an attractive investor is actually losing us money, while an unattractive investor is securing profits, surely we’ll quickly drop that bias in relation to these individual people at least? Alarmingly, the pair’s new paper in the British Journal of Psychology suggests not.

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Financial Stress In Early Adulthood Is Related To Physical Pain Decades Later

By Emily Reynolds

Pain is not a purely biological phenomenon: discrimination, anxiety around work, and general mental strain have all been shown to contribute to the experience of chronic pain. Many researchers therefore take a biopsychosocial approach, exploring the multifarious factors that impact on and are impacted by pain.

A new study in Stress & Health explores the long term consequences of social factors on pain. The team, from the universities of Georgia and South California, Los Angeles, specifically focus on families involved in the 1980s “farm crisis” in the US Midwest, a period where many lost their jobs, land value crashed, and businesses failed — and finds that this financial stress is related to the experience of pain nearly 30 years later.

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