A Study on Greed and Status Essay Example
A Study on Greed and Status Essay Example

A Study on Greed and Status Essay Example

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  • Published: August 9, 2017
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The objective of this thesis is to examine the impact of perspective on greed. There is no single theory that definitively explains greed, so this study explores related concepts such as self-interest, philistinism, and desire for money. The thesis questions whether any wickedness has been committed today, such as taking a long shower without considering household members or lying to a homeless individual.

Before the research, it was already determined that position is a relative factor. Therefore, it was essential to include a comparative aspect in the understanding of greed. The theory of opportunism demonstrates that individuals ultimately strive for an advantage over others. This same conclusion is reached by philistinism. Materialistic individuals assess their own success by the amount of possessions they have and also compare their belongings to those of others in their surr


oundings. Additionally, the desire for money seems to be relative as people use money as a means to display wealth, income, social status, or communicate socially.

These decisions align with the findings of position, which suggest that individuals feel fortunate when they have a similar level of wealth to those in their social circle. Additionally, our tendency to compare ourselves to others in our reference group reinforces this notion. Interestingly, these findings parallel the concepts of greed. Thus, it can be inferred that position shares similarities with greed and has a significant impact on the latter.

Table of content

The Seven Deadly Sins

The topic of conversation, entertainment, and intrigue for approximately 15 centuries (Solomon, 1999) is The Seven Deadly Sins.

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, have always been popular. However, the numbe

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seven and the term "deadly" have caused much speculation (Solomon, 1999 p.7 foreword). Pope Gregory the First established the definitive enumeration. His list of seven sins was confirmed and later modified by Saint Thomas of Aquinas and has been used ever since. The list survived for several centuries and now consists of the following seven sins: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony (Solomon, 1999 p.2).

A recent survey found that The Sins are still prevalent in our daily lives, despite being around for a long time (Frank, 2001). This is mainly because they are deeply ingrained in our human nature, making them almost unavoidable and difficult to control (Frank, 2001). To illustrate this, consider Sloth: Picture a wonderful late night with your family and suddenly, at 7:00 am, your best friend appears - the alarm clock.

Now, who will resist the temptation to press the snooze button once or twice before getting out of bed? This is just a harmless example, but greed can also have more significant consequences. Currently, politicians, journalists, and prominent business people are being accused of greed as one of the main causes of the current credit crunch (Bernasek, 2010; Trouw: section Economics, 2009; Staps, 2008). Another study even suggests that greed is the primary motivating factor behind civil wars (De Soysa, 2002). Despite the fact that these undesirable situations, like credit crunches and civil wars, continue to occur, very little time is devoted to studying this topic in academic research. The main question that intrigues me is: why do people always desire more? Because ultimately, humans and not these sins are responsible for creating these unwanted situations. According to Wenzel

(1968), greed prevails due to the nature of Earth.

He stated that the Earth is cold and dry and hence people who lack heat and humidness are extremely avaricious. Though, besides other definitions are known. When looking at ancient clip, greed was known as a signifier of self-deceit and it was chiefly focused on stuff wealth ( Wachtel, 2003 ) . This while these yearss greed is stated as a signifier of enlightened self-interest ( Wachtel, 2003 ) . In order to sort the many significances of greed, the undermentioned definition will be utilized throughout this thesis: greed is an inordinate desire to get or possess more than one needs or deserves.

Problem statement

Wachtel's research (2003) in psychoanalysis provides insight into the concept of greed. He aims to distinguish between individuals who relentlessly strive for satisfaction but cannot attain it, and those for whom insatiability is a curse and the thirst for money and wealth cannot be quenched (Wachtel, 2003). According to his theory, greed is solely driven by the desire for material wealth and money. However, Frank (1999) asserts that "common influence" is also an important dimension. Common influence refers to the influence of neighbors and family on our choices and purchases (Frank, 1999).

To analyze this concept, he proposes examining the visual perception of what appears visually pleasing in clothing. Merely by existing in society, individuals develop an automatic understanding of how roomy a jacket should be. However, as fashion evolves over time, their perception changes as well. Wachtel (2003) drew a similar analogy. He stated that increasing the average size of vessels does not diminish envy towards larger boats.

When all

boats become larger, individuals still feel as if their assets are "just a boat." Thus, people constantly compare their possessions to others and seek approval from family, friends, and their environment (Wachtel, 2003; Frank, 1999). The importance of "position" for people and its effects are questioned. In a previous study, Veblen (1899) concluded that the desire for social status leads individuals to engage in conspicuous consumption solely to display wealth, which was confirmed by multiple studies. Similarly, Duesenberry (1949) argued that the concern for status causes people to imitate the consumption patterns of those higher up in the income hierarchy.

The importance of the "position thing" and its effects on greed are questioned. The problem definition asks about the impact of position on greed. To answer this, three research questions are formulated: What is greed? What is position? Does position influence greed? A conceptual model with the elements of greed and status is then presented. Status is defined as one's place in the world, while greed is described as an excessive desire for more than one needs. Previous studies have focused on the Seven Deadly Sins, but few have explored greed specifically. However, related subjects like conspicuous consumption, materialism, and opportunism have been studied. None of these studies have connected greed to status. The author believes that status could be a missing variable that motivates people to continue buying material goods.

This survey contributes to the academic understanding of greed and its influence on consumer behavior.

This thesis also has managerial relevance as it aims to deepen the understanding of greed. By acquiring this knowledge, it becomes possible to counteract undesirable consequences caused by greed, such as economic

downturns or civil conflicts. Additionally, it can raise awareness and prioritize this issue in order to protect consumers in the future.


This thesis aims to investigate greed by exploring related concepts such as self-interest, philistinism, and desire for money. These concepts are derived from various theories, with special emphasis on Wachtel's psychoanalytic analysis (2003) (e.g. Wachtel, 2003; Wenzel, 1968; Richins, 1994; Rege, 2006; Khan, 2004; Arrow ; Dasgupta, 2009). The main challenge in analyzing these concepts is that they need to be assessed on an equal footing to arrive at a proper conclusion. Specifically, this thesis focuses on examining the potential correlation between greed and social status.

Previous studies have indicated that the concept of status is relative and thus depends on other factors. To maintain consistency in this thesis, it is crucial to analyze the associated ideas from both an absolute and comparative viewpoint. The absolute description pertains to a general comprehension of the concept, while the comparative description investigates its link to one's position. This chapter will address three interconnected notions related to greed.

Presently, it is assumed that these three concepts wholly contribute greed (Wachtel, 2003). Therefore, these concepts will be aggregated into one chapter. After each chapter, a short decision is given for palingenesis and elucidation.

Self-interest Once, Aristotle wrote "the good adult male should be a lover of himself for he will both net income himself by making baronial Acts of the Apostless and will profit his chaps'' (Aristotle, 1987).

The text suggests that if someone loves themselves, they can also assist others. It is worth noting that beliefs, emotions, and assumptions may evolve over time. According to Paul, Miller, and Paul (1997), being concerned

with one's own interests is considered amoral, while concern for the interests of others is viewed as obvious. In current times, individuals are striving to strike a balance between pursuing their own interests and benefiting others (Paul, Miller, and Paul, 1997). Furthermore, Van Dijk et al. (2004) argued that when faced with social interdependence situations, people express themselves and behave differently. For instance, some individuals rarely engage in genuine collaboration.

The text can beand unified as follows:

They only assist others when it strategically benefits their own self-interest (Van Dijk, De Cremer, ; Handgraaf, 2004). Hence, an individual's social value orientation serves as an underlying factor.

Social value orientation

Social value orientation refers to the inherent difference in how individuals assess outcomes for themselves compared to others (Messick & McClintock, 1968). Various social values have been identified, but typically two contrasting orientations are used, namely the proself and prosocial orientation (e.g.

Declerck & A; Bogaert (2008) and Knight & A; Dubro (1984) conducted studies on societal value orientation. In 1978, Kelley and Thibaut also analyzed mutuality and concluded that societal interactions contributed to the difference between prosocial and proself behaviors (Kelley & A; Thibaut, 1978). Van Lange, Otten, Bruin, and Joireman (1997) further exemplified this idea with practical illustrations.

The main difference between prosocials and proselfs is that prosocials aim to maximize results for both themselves and others, as seen in their behavior where they strive to minimize disparities between outcomes for themselves and others (Van Lange et al., 1997). On the other hand, proselfs focus solely on maximizing outcomes for themselves (Van Lange et Al., 1997). Another significant distinction between prosocials and proselfs is referred to as the trigon hypothesis.


to Iedema and Poppe (1995), the study aimed to understand how prosocials and proselfs perceive the societal universe. The researchers proposed that prosocial individuals have a broader perspective, acknowledging that others may have different societal value orientations. On the other hand, proselfs tend to have a narrower viewpoint, assuming that everyone shares the same societal value orientation of being proself (Iedema & Poppe, 1995).

According to Iedema & Poppe (1995), proselfs believe that people in their environment will make similar choices. This thesis emphasizes the relative aspect of these concepts. Based on the above text, proselfs are considered to be more significant for the study compared to prosocials, as they have a stronger focus on individual goals.

Therefore, the topic of status and rivals is further explored in the following paragraph.
Status and rivals
In theories, the proselfs are divided into two classes, namely individualists and rivals (e.g. Van Lange, Otten, Bruin & Joireman, 1997). The main distinction between these two classes is that individualists focus on maximizing their own outcomes without much consideration for others. On the other hand, rivals tend to compare their own outcomes with those of others (Van Lange et al.).

According to the definitions, it appears that rivals are more concerned with position rather than individuals. Van Lange, Otten, Bruin & Joireman (1997) suggested that rivals are ultimately looking for an advantage over others. Similarly, Kuhlman & Marshello (1975) and Sattler & Kerr (1991) also reached the same conclusion as Van Lange et al.

(1997). Van Lange, Agnew, Harinck, and Steemers (1997) found that rivals are not inclined to engage in prosocial behavior, even if it could ultimately benefit them. They also have a

limited concern for the well-being of others, as evidenced by their indifference towards long-term advantages. Rivals typically show little willingness to make sacrifices and are mainly focused on avoiding being taken advantage of by their partners.

According to research conducted in 1997, rivals tend to seek results that outperform those in their environment (Van Lange, Agnew et. al., 1997). This suggests that competitors are heavily influenced by their position.

Rivals primarily aim to maximize their own outcome in comparison to others and also strive for advantages over others (Van Lange, Otten, Bruin & Joireman, 1997). Hence, they prefer outcomes that are superior to those in their surroundings (Van Lange, et al., 1997). This emphasis on "maximizing their own outcome in relation to others' outcome" is crucial and connected to their perception.

According to Wachtel (2003), individuals feel envious when others possess more than them. Wachtel (2003) further argues that this feeling cannot be eliminated by simply purchasing the same items. Even when everyone has the same possessions, it still feels like nothing more than "just things" (Wachtel, 2003). This suggests that competitors, at least in part, experience these emotions because their main motivation for behaving a certain way stems from the desire to outperform others. As a result, this concept perpetuates a never-ending cycle where people will continue to purchase products and other items.

Materialism - The belief that the pursuit and acquisition of material possessions, wealth, and income is the key to improving one's quality of life (Kashdan & Breen, 2007). It is also commonly associated with defining one's self-identity through ownership and consumption: "I am what I have and what I consume" (Fromm, 1976).

Possessions and the ego

- The term "materialism" can be defined in various ways. Belk (1985) defines it as "the importance a consumer attaches to secular possessions," while Bredemeier and Toby (1960) describe it as "the worship of things."

The theory suggests that mercenary individuals define their success in life based on the measure and quality of their external possessions (Kashdan & Breen, 2007). However, the idea that people consider their possessions as part of themselves is not a new concept (Belk, 1988). William James (1890) laid the foundation for the modern concept of the self. According to him, a person's self is the sum total of everything they can call their own, including their body, psychic abilities, clothes, house, family, friends, reputation, achievements, land, yacht, and bank account. All of these things evoke the same emotions in him. If they thrive and prosper, he feels triumphant; if they diminish and disappear, he feels downcast - not necessarily to the same extent for each item, but in a similar way for all (p.).

According to Belk (1988), the ego encompasses not only objects, but also individuals, places, and group ownerships. Materialism and money play a significant role in the value of possessions for materialists (Richins & Rudmin, 1994). Money serves as the currency that allows individuals to acquire the products they need. Richins and Rudmin (1994) concluded that those high in materialism have a different relationship with money compared to those low in materialism. They also discovered a strong correlation between materialism and desired income.

The argument is that the income needed to satisfy the desires of a materialistic person is approximately 50 percent higher compared to those who are not materialistic.

This is because materialists perceive their possessions as indicators of their success in life (Richins & Rudmin, 1994).

Regarding status and materialism, individuals vary in the degree to which they see wealth as a symbol of social standing (Lea & Webley, 2006). Fromm (1976) claimed that materialistic individuals prioritize possessions above all else. However, it is not solely about purchasing products. Richins and Dawson (1992) discovered a deeper motivational drive behind the pursuit of materialism.

According to Richins & Dawson (1992), individuals who measure their own success based on the number of possessions they have are considered materialistic. Similarly, individuals in their social environment are also judged based on their assets. Other studies support these findings. Kashdan and Breen (2007) found that materialistic values were positively related to the significance of life, relationships with others, feelings of competence, and gratitude. This aligns with the results of Kasser (2002), who found that self-esteem and self-acceptance are connected to possessions, money, power, and image.

Hence, it appears that individuals associate their identities with possessions. However, do these emotions only apply to themselves? According to Wilson and Gilbert (2005), materialistic individuals are also aware of and responsive to the feelings and attention of others. Numerous studies have further supported these discoveries. For instance, Chang and Arkin (2002) determined that there is a connection between materialism and personal insecurity.

Their survey revealed that timidity is a significant predictor of materialistic orientations. Consequently, it can be inferred that materialism is not solely the desire for material possessions. It is an outcome that is influenced by personal insecurity, timidity, and vulnerability (Chang et al., 2002).


Literature studies have demonstrated that materialism is also connected to social

status. Individuals with different levels of materialism vary in their attitudes and values. The distinction lies in the fact that materialistic individuals place a high value on their possessions (Fromm, 1976; Richins & Dawson, 1992).

However, research has revealed that the underlying motivations for materialistic behavior go beyond simply acquiring possessions. These motivations include personal insecurity, desire for power, concern for one's image, and the pursuit of wealth (Chang; Arkin, 2002; Kasser, 2002). Additionally, literature has demonstrated that materialistic individuals are highly attuned to the opinions and attention of others (Wilson & Gilbert, 2005). Thus, it could be argued that materialism is a consequence of personal insecurity, self-doubt, vulnerability, concern for one's image, and the influence of others' opinions and attention.

Desire for Money "Money, money, money. Must be amusing. In the rich adult male's universe." This phrase has its origin in a popular song and conveys the central theme of money.

"What does the phrase 'must be funny in a rich adult male's universe' mean?" is the question raised in this text. The text also explores the history of money, stating that money as we know it today did not exist in the distant past. In those early days, humans would move from place to place following the animals they hunted. There were no stores or banks, so people would exchange goods and services for other things. Eventually, they established a hypothetical "price" for their products, aiming for a fair exchange. However, people started to develop preferences for certain goods, leading to an agreed value for these items and becoming the first form of money.

According to Mishkin (1992), money can take on various forms such as shells,

stones, gold, or paper. Regardless of its physical manifestation, money serves three main functions in any economic system. These functions include being a medium of exchange, a unit of history, and a store of value. Among these functions, its role as a medium of exchange is what distinguishes money from other assets like stocks, bonds, or houses (p.21).

In addition to Mishkin's descriptions, Lea and Webley (2006) conducted extensive research on the topic of money.

Their study, known as "money as a tool/money as a drug," is one of the few studies that examines money from various perspectives (Lea & Webley, 2006).

Tool theory

Economists have argued since the early days that when two individuals exchange scarce resources, it can lead to an increase in the wealth of both parties (Smith, 1776/1908). Therefore, Lea and Webley (2006) concluded that money is the most effective means discovered so far for facilitating such exchanges. To comprehend their Tool Theory, it is necessary to consider money in a restricted sense (Lea & Webley, 2006).

Since, evidently money is a tool only in a metaphorical sense. The Tool Theory defines money as an agency with sole indirect value to procure other inducements. Hereby, it is concluded that money has three functions: it serves as a unit of history, a shop of value as well as a means of exchange (Lea & Webley, 2006).

Drug theory

Certain chemical substances, such as alcohol and nicotine can also become strong inducements (Lea & Webley, 2006). These products are strong incentives and are able to make a person addicted (Lea & Webley, 2006).

However, the question remains: how do these dependencies come about? These dependencies arise because they create physiological states

in the brain (Lea & Webley, 2006). Similarly, though to a lesser extent, this also applies to money. The rapidly growing field of neuro-economics (Glimcher, 2003) has already demonstrated that specific brain centers are activated in the presence of money. As such, Vohs, Mead, and Goode (2006) have suggested that thoughts of money elicit feelings of independence, as money has the ability to solve problems and fulfill needs. Various studies within the realm of addiction support these same findings.

For example, money can be used for purposes such as social display, social communication (Buchan, 1997), and social protection (Doyle, 1998). Additionally, Zhou, Vohs, and Baumeister (2009) found that money can generate social popularity. This emphasizes that money is an important indicator of status in modern societies (Lea & Webley, 2006). Money also serves as a shorthand for representing wealth, income, possessions, and consumption to some extent (Lea & Webley, 2006).

Money and comparative rewards

Money functions as an incentive that serves as a medium of exchange (Hsee, Li & Shen, 2009). For example, it can be used for purchasing items (Hsee et al.

, 2009). However, in situations where money is available, individuals tend to focus on its monetary worth and disregard the ultimate outcome (Hsee et al., 2009). This assertion was examined by Hsee et al. (2009) in their study.

During a survey conducted with undergraduate students, the researchers examined the impact of comparative reward versus monetary compensation. The survey asked participants to choose between receiving $50 or a celebrity encounter on a bus. The results showed that 70 percent of the participants preferred the $50 option. Additionally, Hsee, Yu, Zhang, and Zhang (2003) presented participants with two tasks,

one offering 60 points and the other 100 points, and asked them to make a selection.

Hereby, it was mentioned that the awarded points had no value. The only difference was that the 60 points would entitle the participants to a pail of vanilla ice pick while 100 points would entitle them to a pail of Pistacia vera ice pick (Hsee et al., 2003). Most participants of the research chose the 100-point option, while they afterward overwhelmingly stated that they usually would take the vanilla. So, it is possible to reason that the participants focused on the immediate wages instead of the option that would pay more points afterwards (Hsee, Yu, Zhang & Zhang, 2003).


Vohs, Mead and Goode (2006) suggested that ideas of money activate feelings of autonomy.

To a certain extent, money functions as a representation of overall wealth, possessions, and consumption. However, its most significant role is as a tool for transmitting individuals' wealth or income (Vohs, Mead & Goode, 2006). Additionally, it is suggested that money can be used for purposes such as social display, social communication (Buchan, 1997), and social protection (Doyle, 1998). Hence, money serves multiple purposes and the pursuit of money appears to be a relative concept as well.


Differentiation and status are among the strongest motivators of human behavior (Truyts, 2010). The significance of differentiation as a fundamental driving force was emphasized by Darwin (1871).

One concept that was introduced is that of sexual selection as a tool of choice. It was concluded that in order to maintain population distribution, individuals not only need to exist in their natural and social environment, but they also need to be a more attractive partner

than their same-sex rivals (Truyts, 2010). This idea is also highlighted in more recent research. For instance, in sociology, Bourdieu (1979) identified social differentiation and status as a significant driving force in social life.


In traditional societies, attaining high status may have been challenging, but it was also difficult to lose (De Botton, 2004). De Botton (2004) explained that one cannot simply stop being a deity because it is a title that has been bestowed upon them.

According to De Botton (2004), individuality was important at birth, and accomplishments were irrelevant during that time. This is in contrast with the present, where one's status is determined by their performance in the world rather than their identity (De Botton, 2004).

He also concluded that uncertainty is the most obvious motivation to achieve social position due to the nature of the economic system. For example, people tend to consider the future because they may lack the required talent (De Botton, 2004).

Social status

To comprehend social status, it is essential to initially define status. According to De Botton (2004), status refers to one's position in the world. In this case, the world refers to one's legal or professional standing within a group (e.g.

In a narrower sense, societal position refers to a person's marital status. In a broader sense, it encompasses one's value and importance in the perspective of the universe. According to De Botton (2004), societal position is an extension of this concept. Weber (1922) defined it as a valid claim to respect within society, whether through positive or negative privileges. De Botton (2004) similarly concluded that high societal position brings about pleasant effects.

The definition of position can encompass various

elements such as resources, freedom, and a sense of being cared for through invitations, flattery, respect, and attending (De Botton, 2004). This implies a hierarchy of wages, where higher positions have greater access to desirable feelings like grasp (Griskevicius, Tybur & Van den Bergh, 2010). Additionally, Sloman and Dunham (2004) argue that position tends to enhance a person's confidence.

This continuous lack of success can undermine an individual's confidence (Sloman & Dunham, 2004).
Search for status It is not surprising that people are seeking status, as it has positive effects. In one of his studies, Wright (1994) refers to this as the "profoundly human hunger for status". According to him, people are always striving for high status in society (Wright, 1994). But, how do people fulfill this desired longing? De Botton (2004) stated that individuals can attain high status through their importance, accomplishment, and income. This is also emphasized in the study conducted by Griskevicius, Tybur, and Van den Bergh (2010).

They argued that attaining a high position can be achieved through laterality or prestigiousness (Griskevicius et al., 2010). According to an early study, Duesenberry (1949) concluded that everyone ultimately seeks position. For example, he noted that households not only care about their own level of consumption but also about their consumption level relative to others (Leibenstein, 1950). De Botton (2004) states that people feel fortunate only when they have as much or slightly more than the people they grew up with, work alongside, or have as friends, referring to the theories of Duesenberry (1949) and Leibenstein (1950). For example, when all individuals are small, they are not concerned with matters of size (De

Botton, 2004).

If people see others who are taller than them, they may feel unhappy or dissatisfied (De Botton, 2004). This suggests that people only envy those within their own social circle (De Botton, 2004). As a result, we constantly compare ourselves to those around us (Duesenberry, 1949). This idea is also supported by several academic studies, which use experiments known as "declared preference research."

Stated penchant research involves putting respondents in a hypothetical scenario and asking them to state their preference for an option that would maximize their own interests (Truyts, 2010). For example, Solnick and Hemenway (1998) conducted a study in which respondents had to choose between two companies. Option A was relatively better off, where the respondent has a lower income but is still better than others. Option B was relatively worse off, where the respondent has a higher income but is worse off than others. Solnick and Hemenway (1998) presented the scenario as follows: A: Your annual income is $50,000; others earn $25,000.


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