Take the money: Why we make better financial decisions for strangers than family

November 30, 2012, University of Lincoln
Take the money: Why we make better financial decisions for strangers than family

(Medical Xpress)—People make more rational economic decisions on behalf of strangers and distant relatives than they do for close family members or themselves, new psychology research has shown.

The ability to turn down an immediate reward in anticipation that greater spoils will come later is known as 'deferred gratification' and is an important component of civilised society as it restrains people from acting on basic "me, now" impulses. There is even evidence that young children's willingness to forego one sweet on the understanding they will receive two sweets a few minutes later is an indicator of future .

Researchers from the universities of Lincoln and Nottingham asked undergraduate students to choose whether to accept a small amount of money immediately or a larger sum later, on the basis that the beneficiary would be either themselves, or someone other than themselves.

The test was constructed so the researchers could measure how the closeness of the relationship between the and the imagined recipient affected choices.

Participants were asked to press one of two keys, which determined whether they would accept a specific amount of money now, or would prefer to wait for a larger pay-off.

The researchers set scores (coefficients) to define the degree of family relatedness between the decision maker and the recipient - ranging from self, to parents and siblings, to aunts and uncles, then cousins, nephews and nieces, to best friends, and finally, complete strangers. They also staggered the size of the rewards and the time intervals between them, to identify where the tipping point came when the future reward was too small or too far off to justify the wait.

They found participants were more likely to select a smaller immediate reward than delay for a larger pay-off both for themselves and for beneficiaries they were more closely related to. The decisions got progressively less impulsive and steadily more rational as the family connection became more distant. The most rational economic choices were made on behalf of complete strangers.

The study, published in the online journal PLOS ONE, is the first to show that decisions taken on behalf of others are affected systematically by the closeness of the relationship as measured on a family tree.

The experiment was carried out by Dr Fenja Ziegler from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln and Dr Richard Tunney from the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham.

Dr Ziegler said: "The decision to wait for the larger reward is often the more rational choice economically, yet people do not always make rational choices, especially when emotions are involved. An immediate reward carries with it emotional gratification but a delayed reward does not. When we care about the people affected by our decisions, we tend to be more impulsive. Therefore in tests such as this, we are more inclined to accept a smaller immediate reward than to delay the gratification, even if this impulsive choice means our loved-ones actually receive less in financial terms."

This latest study is significant because it is the first to show systematically that the identity of the third party in relation to the decision maker is a crucial consideration. Most previous research in this area has treated the third party, or 'other', as a homogenous group.

Dr Ziegler concluded: "Our experiment confirmed that the closer the decision maker is to the imagined beneficiary, the less rational their decisions were. This is the first empirical evidence that social distance, as measured by relatedness on a family tree, has a systematic influence on decision-making.

"It is also important to note that we are principally capable of making rational choices, as shown by decisions we make for strangers. However, rational economic concerns can be outweighed by emotional components.

"This question of how relatedness affects the rationality of our decisions is not just of interest to academics. It may also have profound implications for instances where difficult decisions must be made by proxy, such as when family members and medical professionals are discussing end-of-life choices for terminally-ill patients."

The paper 'Decisions for others become less impulsive the further away they are on a tree' by Fenja Ziegler and Richard Tunney was published by PLOS ONE on 28th November 2012 and is available at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049479

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1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
'Decisions for others become less impulsive the further away they are on a family tree'


Decisions for others that believe a happy meal is a happy event and needless killing is to be enjoyed become less impulsive the further away they are on a family tree.

These studies done on people that are making very poor choices are of some use, but this does nothing to rule out poor data sets. Including people in studies that believe killing for fun is good thing; that hide their eyes from the true holocaust they bring upon the life of the earth; that pay others to do their killing for them and expect them to not become desensitized to the killing they do, etc., will produce a resulting data set to include those completely out of touch with basic reality. How empirical is the study then?
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
So, is this a study of people who are very, very sick or people that are not very, very sick, or a mix of both? If so, what are the percentages then? Let's face it. It is normal human response to turn our sight away or close our eyes so we don't see killing. We also cover our ears, and pinch our nose, and can't crew flesh worth a crap, and get sick if we try when it has been on the road for 2 days. This is a human animal's natural state. All studies on humans should take this into account or the research is only insightful at best.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
Propagating and trying to understand the choices of those who are well versed and experienced in making desensitized (quite literally bloodletting) choices for nothing more than personal gratification does little to help those of us looking for our own health and the health of those we love.

1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
It is about time for the doctors to stop ignoring the obvious herbivore nature of the human animal and state those facts as they really are. I don't care what cave man did. I don't care if people want to evolve some part of their selves as a whole for the digestion of flesh, I want to know the facts of what are we now first and THEN be given the choice to mess with that through adaptability. We have big problem here people. It's time for doctors and everyone else to wake up and look at the evidence.

Spend an hour on the internet with 50 people in a room and show them what is really going on at the factory farms. This is not who we are. This is what our choices are and what happens to the people that we ask to do this line of work…. needlessly… for the sole purpose of self-gratification.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
I can say needlessly because the ADA says so here: http://www.eatrig...mID=8417
The PDF above says: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful,…"
Anyone saying eating flesh is required for nutrition will have to defer there for the facts….

The only reasons left to intentionally kill becomes: Necessity (lack of vegetation to eat) and Personal Gratification. If people can have decent vegetation to eat and still choose to consume flesh and animal products we can only be doing it for personal gratification.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
Are the doctors really trying to teach us that killing other life for sole purpose of personal gratification is the healthy state of mind? Wake up!
To have people starving and feeding them fish or being stuck in the arctic and needing 10,000 calories a day to stay alive is one thing. Killing needlessly for taste, fun, personal gratification alone, is quite another; given the reality of the observed distraughtness seen in most individuals when shown the actual real world suffering they are choosing.

Telling people that their hunting trips for "fun" is somehow healthy in mind goes against what we are as human animals. We may need to kill and eat an animal if we are hungry. Our hunger is not a happy event. Neither is the loss of an animal's life a happy event. Neither still is desensitizing another from who they really are a happy event. The truth not only says so, the truth screams it again and again in agony. Just listen to it for real.

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