April 1, 2009

"'Money makes people feel self-sufficient.'"

Says Daniel Ariely of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
"They are more likely to put forth effort to attain personal goals, and they also prefer to be separate from others." The touchy-feely social side of us may disapprove of such behaviour but it is useful for survival.
You've got your "social norms" and your "market norms"....
[The] ability to assess which set of norms applies in a particular situation is important in guiding our behaviour, Ariely says. It allows you to avoid expecting too much trust in the midst of a competitive business negotiation, for example, or making the mistake of offering to pay your mother-in-law after she has cooked you a nice meal. "When we keep social norms and market norms on separate paths, life hums along pretty well," says Ariely. "But when they collide, trouble sets in."

The trick is to get the correct balance between these two mindsets. Numerous psychological studies have found a general trade-off between the pursuit of so-called extrinsic aspirations — such as wealth, but also fame and image — and intrinsic aspirations, such as building and maintaining strong personal relationships. People who report a focus on the former score low on indicators of mental health, and those strongly motivated by money are also more likely to find their marriage ending in divorce."
Are you keeping your sets of norms straight? It's hard when you're working at a job and even harder in a marriage, but I think it can be done. It's nice if you can arrange your life so that what you do with your time all feels good for its intrinsic value and you also have the cash flow to buy what you need and to pay for the things that are not intrinsically rewarding to do for yourself.


paul a'barge said...

I thought we were supposed to aspire to higher norms (ex: Christian norms) rather than just trying to keep them straight.

rhhardin said...

If your job isn't also your hobby, you're missing out.

fcai said...

MIT is right across the river from Cheers, so it is appropriate to yell "NORM!!!"

traditionalguy said...

The phrase "business is business" is used to say that it is time to be 100% selfish now, but we can eat dinner and socialize later. The basic trouble with the accumulation of wealth is that it takes all of a persons waking and sleeping thoughts to "protect the money" from everyone else. Their circle of friends is reduced to 2 to 3 persons under tight control by the Money Owner. But they are safe in a financial crash. I know people who have been planning and hoping for this stock market /real estate crash down since 1994. The dot com bubble and forced Y2K spending, and then the government engineered housing bubble, delayed their happy days for 15 years, but they are cash strong now and waiting for 10 cent on the dollar re-purchases of old investments, or just staying in gold backed currency and waiting. They are all control freaks in their personalities and surround themselves with weak people who hate them. A better strategy might be to help widows and orphans in their distress and experience joy in life. We will see in the long run.

commenter said...

If i were a bumper sticker, I would shout:

crazy and divorced

please drive your data carefully round me.

commenter said...

on my forehead i would whisper:

thanking for keeping your visions level with my eyes, and not single mindedly ass high.

Alex said...

It's about having F-U money. I'm talking liquid. I'm talking $50, $100 million dollars. A player. Or nothing.

srfwotb said...



which I proves Ariely's point - except that part about relationship degradation being some huge surprise the delicate balance of which being upended in ways impossible to foresee and necessitating MIT scholarship. ;-)

Also agree with @traditional guy : some don't have to keep up their end of the quid pro quo - so bridges are burned easily and the only people left are as you stated who don't have much of a choice.

Alex said...

traditionalguy - the theory is that asshole control freaks invest in IPOs which employ hitech workers, who are the only ones that matter.

amba said...

Mama may have
Papa may have
But God bless the child
Who's got his own,
Who's got his own.

Royce said...

"Food makes people feel full."

who, me? said...

Hi, Ann, and congratulations (4/5/09).

These distinctions -- why you don't pay your mother for a meal -- are propounded at some length in Jane Jacobs' Systems of Survival.