Thursday, September 9, 2010

How We Value Money - Response to the Previous Post

A friend of mine recently had a very interesting comment on the last post:
You say that people assign a higher value to items once they own them. Could it be the opposite for status/striving items?

My response:
It makes complete sense that results could vary between studies where objects are earned versus given. My inclination is that some items without social status that are earned may actually garner more emotional attachment. For example, if a high school kid earned money to buy his own cheap car, he/she may be more emotionally attached to the car than a kid who was given the cheap car. On the other hand, it makes sense to me that if a person earns a particular object with the idea in mind that it will generate social status, they might value it less once it is attained. My quick thoughts on the reasons for this (that are actually clinical in nature) are that one may be jealous when seeing others with certain items and incorrectly assume that once they have these items, their jealousy will subside. In other words, there is an assumption that having certain items will create happiness (for example) because a lack of the items creates jealousy. Therefore, when the item is attained and does not provide the anticipated positive feelings, it may be emotionally devalued. At the core of the issue would be emotionality or perceived importance surrounding wealth. But I do realize that one can be goal oriented without jealousy. So if a person with a high desire for achievement were to attain a goal to buy a high social status item, they might be left feeling unfilled simply due to an insatiable drive for achievement. My guess is that people will have varying degrees of both jealousy and drive for achievement that will lead to different emotional valuations of both high and neutral status items.

In short, I would say that while emotional attachment might generally increase for items that were earned, perhaps it is a different story with earned items that an individual perceives to have social status when jealousy and drive for achievement are considered.
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