April 21, 2016


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Greed: a driver for economic growth, yet unhappy people - Silla Corona Greed: a driver for economic growth, yet unhappy people - Silla Corona

In traditional economic theory, greed has been considered a driver of growth, a trait correlated to ambition that ever since the industrial revolution has led to wealth and innovation. On the other hand, Christianity has condemned it; Hinduism regards it as bad karma; Islam and Judaism scorn it because it leads to acquisition at the expense of others.


But aside from moral judgment, professor Marcel Zeelenberg tells that when one of his PhD students (Terri Seuntjens) told him she wanted to study greed in economic behavior, he assumed there would be significant empirical knowledge on the subject. "But there was nothing. Many sociologists, psychologists, theologists have studied it, but nobody had collected data. That is highly remarkable," he said.

Dr. Zeelenberg, who is director of the Tilburg Institute of Behavioral Economics Research (TIBER) at Tilburg University, The Netherlands, believes greed has been one of the main motors of economic development in capitalism and at the heart of innovation. "The greedy are the ones that dedicate time to invent new things and advance technology, but usually not for altruistic reasons," rather for money, fame or status.

One of the major achievements of the research he and his team conducted at Tilburg University was the development of a seven-item scale that captures individual differences in greediness and that predicts greed-induced behaviors. These items, given to more than 6,000 people, were:

1. I always want more.
2. Actually, I'm kind of greedy.
3. One can never have too much money.
4. As soon as I have acquired something. I start to think about the next thing I want.
5. It doesn't matter how much I have. I'm never completely satisfied.
6. My life motto is "more is better."
7. I can't imagine having too many things.

"Then we let them play economic games and found that the greedier people are, the less satisfied they are with their life", Zeelenberg explains. "The two core elements of greed are that the greedy are not satisfied with their current life situation and always want more. It's an insatiable desire", he says.

Another survey, tells Zeelenberg, which involved over 120,000 people, found that there is a relationship between greed and the type of job people have: banking, finance, oil and gas production and real estate agents scored highest greed levels while those who work in health care, education and research scored the lowest. These findings make perfect sense, but what is most distressing is that historically, capitalism and economic development have thrived on greed, a characteristic associated with destructive behaviors such impulsiveness, and lack of self-control.

In addition, greed makes for people who are more envious, more impulsive and tolerant to immoral behavior. Nevertheless, greed is functional. It helps people make more money, but only in situations where it plays out: it will not boost an educator´s salary, but for a real estate agent it can be the most useful trait towards a higher income.


Descargar Hoja de vida de Marcel Zeelenberg

Read 3024 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 January 2018 16:25


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