Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

January 21, 2014

Study: Money is addictive

WASHINGTON — There's a fundamental principle in economics that applies to food, clothing and even all those shiny tech gadgets that start with the letter "i": The more of them we have, the less we value them.

But that may not be true when it comes to money. New research from Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and his colleagues at the University of Toronto and Renmin University of China finds that the more money people make, the more they value it.

The research, published in the journal ILRReview, examined data from a longitudinal survey known as the British Household Panel Survey, as well the results from new experiments. Pfeffer and his colleagues calculated respondents' hourly income, as well as its growth over time, to separate money earned by actual work and money earned from other sources, such as investments. It then compared hourly earnings to respondents' views on how important it was to them to "have a lot of money."

"We thought it was quite possible that money was different because of its symbolic nature — when I pay you, I'm also signaling your worth," Pfeffer says.

And that's what they found. The more that people earned, the more they said money mattered to them. The same correlation was not true when it came to money made from sources unrelated to work. That kind of income, Pfeffer says, has "much less implication for one's sense of mastery or worth."

Pfeffer says the research provides implications for how chief executives and other workers are paid. When it comes to motivating employees, he thinks it's a reminder for managers to emphasize — instead of money — the organization's mission. He recalls the story of a human resource executive who spoke to his Stanford class about how his software company didn't give stock options — an idea that sounded like sacrilege in Silicon Valley. "He said, 'Look, a raise is only a raise for 30 days. After that, it's a salary.' "

Text Only
Washington Post Features
  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 17, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

  • news_twitter.jpg Travelers fly on Air Twitter

    The enlightened age of social media has dawned over the airline industry, casting shadows over telephone call centers and on-site agents. Facebook and Twitter are racking up the friends and followers while the hold music plays on.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 8, 2014