Does Winning The Rat Race Change You?

Most people have heard the expression ‘that money changes people’. As children, we are socialized by the world around us. The core of who someone, is largely determined by what has been relayed through childhood experiences. Socialization takes places in a myriad of ways but mostly through, race and gender. What about class?

Class differentiation is avoided in conversations like the plague. Everyone may not like to talk about money, but it is still present. Attaining and maintaining money is the goal of every person that lives in the first world. This does not take long to see once we are re-configured to the world as adults.

Without it, one of two things may happen: 1) quality of life may be severely impaired or 2) survival is doomed. This is the point where someone who doesn’t buy the hype would say, “money isn’t everything” or ” money can’t buy happiness” but in reality it is everything.

The golden ticket to exist is reliant on paper and coins. Under those rules society ends up back in the rat pack, following the norm to make the money to buy the house, feed families and buy the clothes. In that respect, people are equals until comparisons begin between the sizes of these homes, the quality of the food and the labels that come attached to those flattering clothes. Then, something changes.

In an article featured in New York Magazine, the author developed a piece based on research that suggested, individuals with higher income have less empathy toward others. The psychologists used in this article presented several different experiments correlating wealth or perceived wealth with empathy by citing emotional cues or actions to determine overall empathy toward others. What makes this article interesting is that the changes in attitudes among those who just had ‘perceived’ wealth or status just for the study.

In experiments she published in the journal Science in 2006, Vohs “primed” her subjects to think about money, which is to say she planted the idea of money in their minds without their knowledge before observing their social interactions compared with a control group. In one case, she asked participants to wait alone in a room at a big table, which happened to be strewn with gold, green, and burnt-orange Monopoly bills. After ten minutes, she’d get the subject, take him to a different room, and ask him to fill out piles of questionnaires seeking detailed psychological ­information. The point was to muddle the subject’s mind: He knew he was ­participating in an experiment but had no idea what he was being tested for.

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. In a conversation in her office in May, Vohs stressed that money-priming did not make her subjects malicious—just disinterested. “It’s not a bad analogy to think of them as a little autistic,” she said. “I don’t think they mean any harm, but picking up pencils just isn’t their problem.”

The article continues with other more brazen experiments that are aimed to show how and when money factors into social connections and attitudes. It points out some markers that individuals are socialized to live by and may not even realize. Overall, individuals in society pride themselves based on what they have accomplished or can show for their existence up to that point and judge others accordingly. Status is not only something to aspire to, it is a classification. Through this classification, people conduct themselves by how it is believed they should. The man standing bone straight, walking confidently in the power suit walking down the street versus the homeless man cowering as he shyly asks for extra change are all examples of this very classification.

Everyday interactions with the mailman, the waitress, person holding a screaming baby, or retail clerk are all indications of  your own personal markers and perceived status.  While it may seem unfair to judge those who have a higher status as callous, this perception may have validity. Regardless of how one is raised, the introduction to a better status and the aspect of an increased quality of life is more likely to change that person’s attitude . The scope of the change is completely relative. The best way to tell, is to observe it personally. How do you feel and act on a day that you have a pocket full of cash?