“Subjects were asked to assess whether they had a forgiving nature or found fault with others, whether they were trusting, cold, considerate, or cooperative. Then they were given and agreeableness score. Men with the lowest agreeableness earned $42,113 in a given year; those with the highest agreeableness earned $31,259." (Lisa Miller, "The Money-Empathy Gap," New York Magazine, 2012 Jul)In another study ("The Psychological Consequences of Money," Science, 2006 Nov), researcher Kathleen Vohs merely planted the idea of money in subjects' minds. As the subjects filled out questionnaires, some of them were in a room with Monopoly money present (left over from a prior monopoly game), and some were not.
"Vohs got her result only after the subject believed the session was over. Heading for the door, he would bump into a person whose arms were piled precariously high with books and office supplies. That person (who worked for Vohs) would drop 27 tiny yellow pencils, like those you get at a mini-golf course. Every subject in the study bent down to pick up the mess. But the money-primed subjects picked up 15 percent fewer pencils than the control group." (Miller)That’s just from the thought of money planted by having Monopoly money nearby.
Vohs stressed that money-priming did not make her subjects malicious — just uninterested....'I don’t think they mean any harm, but picking up pencils just isn’t their problem.' Over and over, Vohs has found that money can make people anti-social. She primes subjects by seating them near a screen-saver showing currency floating like fish in a tank or asking them to descramble sentences, some of which include words like bill, check, or cash. Then she tests their sensitivity to other people. In her Science article, Vohs showed that money-primed subjects gave less time to a colleague in need of assistance and less money to a hypothetical charity. When asked to pull up a chair so a stranger might join a meeting, money-primed subjects placed the chair at a greater distance from themselves than those in a control group. When asked how they’d prefer to spend their leisure time, money-primed people chose a personal cooking lesson over a catered group dinner. Given a choice between working collaboratively or alone, they opted to go solo.” (Miller)There does seem to be a plus side. Thinking about money makes people more oriented to efficiency and productivity – like Bob, the advantaged monopoly player. Money-focus encourages thoughts of self-sufficiency: less willing to help, but also less interested in being helped.
Here's Kathleen Vohs' lecture, "Money Makes People Less Socially Focused":
Research so far hazards no guess as to where the tipping point is after which personality transformation kicks in – and that point is surely highly variable from individual to individual. There is a basic human tendency to protect what we have, and the more we have, the stronger the tendency to put our energy into the having. It requires intentionality to avoid being sucked into that pattern.
Give It Away
A practice of generosity counter-acts that self orientation. Warm-heartedness also reduces blood pressure, anxiety and stress and improves health. You’ve got what you’ve got. Now give it away. Make it into something that connects you to others, that connects you to the world’s suffering. Otherwise, it will be a force of disconnection, tending to makes us less social, less caring. Give it away as a regular practice – weekly if possible.
I never met – and I’d be willing to bet you haven't either – a generous person who was bitter or a bitter person who was generous. That bears remembering. Generosity and bitterness are incompatible.
It’s not entirely clear whether generosity causes reduction in bitterness, or reduction in bitterness causes generosity – just as it isn’t always clear whether wealth causes disagreeableness or disagreeableness facilitates wealth acquisition. Either way, they go together.
Generosity – also known as hospitality, kindnesss, largesse, benevolence, bounteousness, magnanimity, openhandedness, warmheartedness, compassion – life as overflow – enriches our lives. When we live from an awareness of abundance rather than in the grip of the delusion of scarcity, generosity becomes possible.
And generosity grows through practice. To develop in an area requires disciplined commitment. The skilled athletes are not the ones who exercise when they happen to be in the mood for it. The skilled poets or musicians do not just write poetry or rehearse when they feel like it. They show up for daily practice, whether they feel like it or not. Generosity develops in us through a disciplined commitment to develop it as a way of being. “You can’t think and hit at the same time,” said Yogi Berra – meaning that we have to show up for the discipline of training our habit muscles, so that the habit muscles can be our guide when, as in most of what we do in the days of our lives, there isn’t the time or the inclination to think them through very much.
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This is part 2 of 4 of "The Spiritual Practice of Generosity"
Click for other parts:
Part 1: Money Makes Mean?
Part 3: One Glove and Ten Percent,
Part 4: Give It Away!