It seems like whenever lottery winners make headlines years after they cash in, it’s never for good news.
Divorces, lawsuits, the occasional murder — big time bank accounts can mean big time life problems.
Money corrupts. And now you can just blame science.
The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter reports on a new study out of Harvard and the University of Utah that suggests money actually changes the way we think, weakening our moral compass.
The researchers performed a suite of experiments on several hundred undergraduates. First they exposed some to phrases like “she spends money liberally” or pictures that would make them think of money, and others to images and phrases that had nothing to do with the stuff.
Then they made them answer questions to flesh out whether their morals would flag in the presence of temptation, and how they articulated the behaviour to themselves.
Participants coached to think about money demonstrated weaker ethics in the questionnaire. Moreover, the students reasoned through the questions via cost-benefit analysis, eschewing the kind of morality that gets in the way of pragmatic thinking.
For instance, they were more likely to answer that they would filch a ream of paper from the university’s copying room. They were more likely to lie for a financial gain and explain it to themselves as “primarily a business decision.”
There you have it.
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