Bias from envy and jealousy

Back in 1995, researchers from Harvard asked students/staff which they preferred:

  • Earning $50,000 a year when everyone else around them makes $25,000.
  • Earning $100,000 a year when everyone else around them makes $200,000.

Prices of goods and services would be the same in both cases.  So a higher salary really meant being able to own a nicer home or a nicer car.

50% chose option 1, leaving $50,000 on the table, just to avoid earning less than their neighbors.

Why is that the case?  Once again, we can look at our human mind for reasons.

The human mind is extraordinarily sensitive to changes in conditions, but not so sensitive to absolute levels.  The winner’s pleasure comes from rising in wealth, not from standing still at a high level and after a few months, the new comforts have become the new baseline of daily life.


Watch out, we are programmed to desire, not to appreciate.

While a small pinch of envy is a positive motivator, a chronic comparison complex can ruin your life.  If you cannot control the ancient urge to measure your success against that of your peers, your happiness will always depend less on how much money you have than on how much money they have.  And that’s something you will never have any control over.

Always wanting more, in order to keep up with whoever has more, makes millions of people perennially unhappy and causes the lack of wealth in the lives of many.

The way to overcome this emotion is to say to yourself: “Isn’t it wonderful!  I am happy for that man’s prosperity.  I wish him greater and greater wealth.”

Do not entertain envious thoughts because it places you in a negative position; therefore, wealth flows away from you—instead of to youas you cannot attract what you criticize.  Like money, and all the people who have it.


“It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.” — Charlie Munger

“A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” — Oscar Wilde

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” — Stephen Wright

“Nothing in this world can so violently distort a man’s judgment than the sight of his neighbor getting rich.” — J.P. Morgan


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