Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Poor are Generous: the Powerful are Stingy

Derek D Rucker, David Dubois, and Adam D Galinsky of the Kellogg School at Northwestern University conducted five experiments where they examined how much their subjects spent on purchases for themselves then others. They meanwhile used various methods to condition subjects’ sense of power by assigning them as a boss or employee in a role play, or asking them to remember a time when they possessed or lacked power, or showing them advertisements suggesting power or lack of it.

After doing these conditioning tasks, subjects participated in an auction where they made bids for a t-shirt and a mug. One group had to bid for the item for themselves, while another group had to bid for the item for someone else of their choosing.

When subjects were bidding for an item for themselves, those conditioned to feel powerful bid an average $12.08, whereas those conditioned to feel powerless only bid $6.49. In contrast, when they were bidding for an item for someone else, the subjects conditioned to feel powerless bid an average $10.81, while those conditioned to feel powerful bid $7.10.

Over the whole series of five experiments, these results were consistent. People feeling powerful were generous to themselves but mean buying presents for others. People feeling low in power were generous to others and mean with themselves. Plainly status is accompanied by a psychological attitude towards others, power with selfishness, and weakness with generosity.

In actual societies, the weak are more likely to have to depend upon others, and equally others who are also weak are more likely to have to depend upon them. Poor, weak people are therefore more generous. Wealthy, powerful people have no need to depend upon others, but feel the need to hang on to their wealth and power, though they have enough to spare!

Note that the Christian incarnated God, Christ, said the poor were blessed, meaning they would enter God's Kingdom, like the poor beggar, Lazarus, but the rich, like the wealthy Dives, would end up begging to the poor in heaven from the fires of hell!

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