Saturday, July 07, 2012

Nice guys finish last

Careful observation suggests it's mostly sociopaths at the top  ;-)

The negative correlation between agreeableness and earnings is also established here.

NY Magazine: ... T. Byram Karasu, a psychiatrist at Albert Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center who treats wealthy clients, believes all very successful people share certain fundamental character traits. They have above-average intelligence, street smarts, and a high tolerance for anxiety. “They are sexual and aggressive,” he says. “They are also competitive with anyone and have no fear of confrontations; in fact, they thrive on them. And in contrast to their image, they are not extroverted. They become charmingly engaging when needed, but in their private world, they are private people.” They are, in the parlance, all business. 
Earlier this year, researchers led by Timothy Judge at Notre Dame went some way toward proving Karasu’s observation when they published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled “Do Nice Guys—And Gals—Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income.” The paper explored, in part, the financial penalties that women suffer in the workplace for being perceived as pushovers. But it also found a strong correlation, especially dramatic in men, between disagreeableness and income. Subjects were asked to assess whether they had a forgiving nature or found fault with others, whether they were trusting, cold, considerate, or cooperative. Then they were given an agreeableness score. Men with the lowest agreeableness earned $42,113 in a given year; those with the highest agreeableness earned $31,259. Disagreeableness was also correlated to job responsibility and recommendations for the management track. ... 
Piff’s most notorious research seemed to demonstrate the extent to which people with money behave as if the world revolves around them. Last year, he spent three months hanging out at the ­intersection of Interstate 80 and Lincoln Highway, near the Berkeley Marina. ... Piff and his research team would stake out the intersection at rush hour, crouching behind a bank of shrubs near the Sea Breeze Market and Deli, and catalogue the cars that came by, giving each vehicle a grade from one to five. (Five would be a new-model Mercedes, say, and one would be an old, battered Honda like the one Piff drives.) Then the researchers would observe the drivers’ behavior. A third of people who drove grade-five cars, Piff found, rolled into the intersection without first coming to a complete stop—a violation, he reminds readers in his PNAS study, of the ­California ­Vehicle Code. “Upper-class drivers were the most likely to cut off other vehicles even when controlling for time of day, driver’s perceived sex, and amount of traffic.” When Piff designed a similar experiment to test drivers’ regard for pedestrians, in which a researcher would enter a zebra crossing as a car approached it, the results were more staggering. ... fully half the grade-five cars cruised right into the crosswalk. “It’s like they didn’t even see them,” Piff told me. 
... Looking at the data from the heart monitors, Stellar found a direct, negative correlation in biological terms between class and compassion. “Lower-class individuals showed greater heart-rate deceleration in response to the suffering of others,” Stellar wrote. The heart rates of the upper-class subjects generally did not change. 
... The American Dream is really two dreams. There’s the Horatio Alger myth, in which a person with grit, ingenuity, and hard work succeeds and prospers. And there’s the firehouse dinner, the Fourth of July picnic, the common green, in which everyone gives a little so the group can get a lot. Markus’s work seems to suggest the emergence of a dream apartheid, wherein the upper class continues to chase a vision of personal success and everyone else lingers at a potluck complaining that the system is broken. (Research shows that the rich tend to blame individuals for their own failure and likewise credit themselves for their own success, whereas those in the lower classes find explanations for inequality in circumstances and events outside their control.)


LondonYoung said...

It would be interesting to hear more about non-US perspective on wealth inequality - the French seem to be in the midst of such a debate right now ... I get the impression the U.S. has turned quite inwards on this topic.
This article (admittedly from NY Magazine) even has a passage about Manhattan's FDR traffic which cannot be properly understood without first-hand Manhattanite knowledge of the road. When heading south on the three-lane FDR drive there is a right-side exit for the Brooklyn Bridge. At busy times the right lane can back up for the better part of a mile with cars waiting to exit right. However, the back-up extends far beyond the last point at which one must "officially" be in the right lane in order to make the turn. Thus, a novice might drive almost all the way to the exit before realizing and then, innocently (and legally), need to cut in. An experienced driver might "pretend" to be a novice and cut in as well. Very aggressive drivers often go so far as to (illegally) cut in past the point where the line turns solid - if there is no police presence. Drivers attempting to perform these cut in maneuvers then "infect" the middle and even the left lane with the traffic jam creating huge negative utility for those not looking to take the exit.

MtMoru said...

Both rich and poor have self serving biases.

MtMoru said...

America is a vulgar bourgeois country with a still intact myth that who your parents are doesn't matter. The French have never had that.

Miley Cyrax said...

The article even explicitly mentions the phrase "chicken and the egg" but dances around the fact that intelligence could be the driver of income.

"Public-health research has long shown that poverty can have devastating effects on the brain. At 3 years old, poor kids have vocabularies that are three times smaller than their better-off peers. Their memories do not work as well."

It couldn't be because memory and vocabulary are manifestations of intelligence, and poor kids inherit the intelligence of their poor parents, could it?

"The corollaries to this poverty work are potentially explosive: Wealth may give you a better brain. It may make you a more strategic thinker, a savvier planner. (Research has shown that the more a ­person is able to imagine himself in the future, the more cash he is likely to have in his savings account.) And the cognitive benefits of affluence may accrue incrementally, speculates Dovidio, so that very rich people have better brain functioning than moderately rich people."

That's weird, it almost as if having a "better brain" and having better future time orientation could lead you to have greater income and wealth as well.

"Shafir has shown that in environments of abundance, people make better financial decisions—it’s not that rich people tend to be better educated and can afford better advice, but that people living paycheck to paycheck don’t have the mental space to make the smartest long-term moves."

It can't be because that they lacked "mental space" in the first place that they're living paycheck to paycheck, right?

It could very well be that greater wealth and income causes sociopathy, and/or that sociopathy causes wealth and income. But the author and the soundbites presented from these researchers don't make this case adequately, and ignore the elephant in the room that is intelligence, and the heritability of intelligence.

LondonYoung said...

Liberty, equality, fraternity? ;-)

steve hsu said...

Yes, the author is completely clueless about genetic/environmental breakdown/confounds.

That doesn't detract from the specific results correlating empathy levels and social class, although the causality is still in question.

MtMoru said...

And when an Irishman immigrates to Australia he's more like to develop skin cancer than the natives. It's "genetic".

reservoir_dogs said...

Interesting post. According to some reporting, 1% of the population are psychopaths, where as 4% of the CEOs are psychopaths. While that is an elevated number, it still leaves 96% of them as non-psychopaths. From the psychopaths that I met in real life, they were all failures in life(including their financial status). I think the Psychopathic CEO might be a tiny minority of the psychopath population where as vast majority of them are failures in life because they only can care about themselves. This inability to empathize with others kills them as they literally would not be able to care about others even if their life depends on it.

Seth said...

That disingenuous last-minute merge technique is hardly unique to the FDR drive. As full of a-holes as NYC is, it still falls short of a monopoly on cheap tricks and shallow self-regard. 'Class' in the not-strictly-pecuniary sense of the word is sadly very rare.

Seth said...

Actually that myth reflects naïveté and ignorance of history. The vulgar bourgeois thing is to know perfectly well that it is all about social status and connections -- and to feel quite superior about understanding the "truth" rather than being distracted by abstract ideals. France has this type of vulgarity in abundance, and frankly most of America -- at least on the coasts -- is not far behind.

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