Being rich makes you more selfish, finds study

It’s official, the well-to-do are self-centred 

Sarah Young
Monday 18 December 2017 16:30 GMT
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Wealthy people experience more positive emotions when focused on themselves, new research suggests. Or to put it another way; being rich makes you self-centred and selfish.

As the old adage goes, money can’t buy you happiness but it seems that it does have an impact on what brings you joy.

According to research published by the American Psychological Association, people with lower incomes find happiness in other people, through feelings of love and compassion, according to new research.

However, rich people find their happiness in more self-involved traits, such as pride.

Published in the journal Emotion, the research from the University of California, looked at how income impacts how we experience happiness by surveying 1,519 people from the US – 752 male and 767 female.

Instead of measuring happiness, the study compared the finances of each participant with how often they experienced seven positive emotions including amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride.

Interestingly, the researchers found that those at the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum reported a greater tendency to experience emotions that focused on themselves, specifically pride and contentment.

In comparison, individuals with lower incomes were more likely to experience positive emotions that focussed on other people, namely compassion and love.

Poorer people also reported experiencing more awe and beauty in the world around them, while there was no apparent difference for enthusiasm.

Over the last few decades, research has focused on the negative effects of poverty but this new study suggests that, while wealthier individuals tend to find greater positivity in their own accomplishments or status, for those on the lower end of the income scale, happiness came from a deeper place.

“Lower-income individuals have devised a way to cope, to find meaning, joy and happiness in their lives despite their relatively less favourable circumstances.”

“Wealth doesn't guarantee you happiness, but it may predispose you to experiencing different forms of it - for example, whether you delight in yourself versus in your friends and relationships,” said lead author Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine.

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