One of the more interesting items I’ve read recently was a CNN Money article on how thinking about money can influence you to behave in an unethical manner. The results came from four different studies performed at the University of Utah and Harvard University.
In these studies, researchers found that thinking about money puts people into a different mindset — a mindset that results in a willingness to make morally dubious decisions.
This mindset focuses on maximizing financial gains, and doesn’t pay much attention to moral considerations. If it means that they’ll get more money, many people are willing to lie or cheat, or even steal.
What Constitutes Thinking About Money?
It would be nice to think that only those who deal with money all the time are affected. However, the studies indicate that even a small amount of exposure to money thoughts can decrease ethical tendencies. Just images of currency or the act of unscrambling money-related words can weaken moral resolve.
So, whether you’re listening to a rap song about money, or are wondering about paying the bills, it appears that your thoughts could stray to unethical ways to obtain more money.
How Do Thoughts of Money Influence You?
It might not be a bad idea to consider how money might be influencing your own thoughts and actions. The studies suggest that the influence might not be huge or obvious — it could be a little more subtle. For most of us, looking at pictures of hundred dollar bills isn’t going to prompt us to rush out and rob a convenience store.
But what if a little lie could increase your bottom line? What if trading on some illegal insider information could mean a higher profit? The CNN Money article uses an example of an employee taking a ream of paper from the office because he or she is out of printer paper at home.
These are seemingly small things that many of us don’t even really think are wrong as we’re doing them.
But, when we stop and think about these actions, or if we were to see someone else doing them, we consider it wrong — especially since we’re often thinking about moral issues at that point, and not our own bottom lines.
The morality seems to be a little more fluid when it comes to making decisions for yourself, and especially when making decisions that really impact your financial situation. It becomes about the financial edge and the boosting of profits.
Of course, this makes me wonder what kind of person I’m becoming. I think about money for a good portion of every day, just because it’s my job to write about it. Are all these thoughts about money resulting in subtle influences that are corrupting me?
What do you think? Can thoughts about money turn you into a worse person? Do you think there’s a difference between occasionally thinking about money and obsessing over it?