Do you think people are more apt to repay acts of generosity, or greed? In five experiments involving either money or work conducted by the American Psychological Association, recipients of acts of generosity didn't extend that generosity to others any more often than those who had been treated equally. However, those who were the victims of greed were more likely to react by being greedy with others.
For example, in one experiment, recipients were told that an unknown person had split $6 with them and were given an envelope that contained either the entire $6, an even split of $3 or nothing. Each recipient then received a second envelope with $6 that they could share with other, unknown people and were instructed to place an amount into that envelope. Those who received either the $6 or the $3 in the first envelope weren't any more or less generous with the amount they placed in the second envelope. But those in the group that received nothing -- essentially the victims of greed -- were more apt to put nothing in the second envelope, thus cheating out future recipients.
Researchers conclude that people respond more powerfully to negative actions than positive ones and are more likely to pass along that negativity.
Given the recent history of Ponzi-scheme scandals such as those perpetrated by Bernard Madoff, the backlash against the so-called 1 percent wealthiest Americans and the fallout associated with the largest Wall Street banks, it seems we could use more high-profile examples of extravagant generosity.
Keep up with your wealth and mortgages and follow me on Twitter.