Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crave for Luxury & Get Self interest Free!

|"Build your own legacy by supporting others! Brand You is NOT selfish!!!"  ~Tom Peters
This is a long time debate, that people at higher rungs in the society should also care about those at the bottom of pyramid, and that these people generally don't much care about the holistic social benefit. 

How true is that claim? 

A recent research done by Harvard professor Roy Y.J. Chua and Xi Zou, an assistant professor at London Business School, tries to answer this question. It says that, "luxury goods have an important effect on human behavior". And people who crave for luxury items are more likely to act in their own self interest in their decision making! And I think it goes pretty well when we talk about high-flying executives on Wall Street.
Their research concludes,
"In the midst of the current global economic crisis, people are outraged by highly paid executives living in the lap of luxury while continuing to make self-serving decisions and ignoring the plight of others. To date, more than a year since the crisis started, despite much public outrage and threats to more strongly regulate the financial industry, there do not seem to be any substantive changes in their mindset. Bankers are still planning large bonuses for themselves."
How true! 
Behavioral psychology has an explanation for these findings: "People living in luxurious condition can't (even if they want to) relate themselves with the sufferings of the people living in dire condition (or at least living in a lower level of comforts). And this is true even otherwise!" Findings suggest that, these luxury-primed individuals were not more likely to have anti-social cognition, but were less likely to have pro-social thoughts. In other words, when thinking about luxury, people tend to focus more on themselves and less on others (although they are aware of the consequences of their decisions).
But the implications of this study go deeper into the human psyche, explaining why sometimes people show empathy towards socially and economically backward people, while at the same time turn their faces away when called for contribution in the society. By Contribution, I do not mean only charity! Rather, I mean income equality, and stopping random acts of inequality.  
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It is 2nd of many posts under "Ideas for Social Change Series". Visit all of them here
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