Psychopaths friendly society: new study finds agreeable personalities have less money

Keit

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Nice children are more likely to end up poor later in life, according to a new study.

Scientists have found that those with a more agreeable personality are destined to a higher degree of financial mismanagement as adults.

Experts at University College London and Columbia Business School analyzed the data from more than three million participants and found that those with meaner personalities ended up, on average, richer.

They looked both at children, following them into later life, and directly at adults.

Agreeability correlated with lower income, credit scores, lower savings and higher debt.

The research teams also sought to establish why the correlation existed.

They concluded that agreeable people are worse off not because they are more willing to compromise, but because they simply think less about money, and are therefore at a higher risk of mismanaging their affairs.

Dr Sandra Matz, from Columbia, said: “Our results help us to understand one potential factor underlying financial hardship, which can have serious implications for people's well-being.

"Being kind and trusting has financial costs, especially for those who do not have the means to compensate for their personalities."

The researchers took their findings two online panels, a national survey, bank account data and publicly available geographic data.

They also compared publicly available personality and financial data from two areas in the United Kingdom that both had similar per-capita income levels.

The city that scored significantly higher on agreeableness also had 50 percent higher bankruptcy rate.

"We were interested in understanding whether having a nice and warm personality, what academics in personality research describe as agreeableness, was related to negative financial outcomes," said Dr Matz.

"Previous research suggested that agreeableness was associated with lower credit scores and income.

“We wanted to see if that association held true for other financial indicators and, if so, better understand why nice guys seem to finish last."

The research is published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
But I think that this applies to an individualized society, where everyone thinks only about themselves. Which kind of fits, because the institutions that did this research are propagating this kind of approach to life. It seems that these effects can be easily mitigated in the environment where everyone cares not only about their own well-being, but also the well-being of others.
 

latulipenoire

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But I think that this applies to an individualized society, where everyone thinks only about themselves. Which kind of fits, because the institutions that did this research are propagating this kind of approach to life. It seems that these effects can be easily mitigated in the environment where everyone cares not only about their own well-being, but also the well-being of others.
I agree with you. It's not rare to see kind people helping others with all their time, energy and money despite their lack of resources while we know examples of rich people just pursuing their own greedy goals.
 

3DStudent

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Interesting because Jordan Peterson says that agreeable people make less money. But I thought he says something like agreeable people will not be pressing their bosses for a raise. You need to be bold to do that, and he will say to outline what you've done at your job, and state what you want, and that there will be consequences if you don't get it. This of course requires a disagreeable (even if forced) way of going about it.
 

beetlemaniac

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It seems to me that there needs to be a balance between individualism and serving the needs of the collective. Individuals who are agreeable tend to neglect their own needs in service of the needs of others. The extreme representation of the agreeable person could be something like a martyr, who would give their life away for the greater good. The other end of the spectrum would be the psychopath who has no compunction to lie, cheat, steal or even kill if it forwards their own self-centered goals.

Also, I think, depending on the society one finds oneself in, there would be a greater or lesser degree of acceptance of psychopathic behavior. I can't really speculate on what constitutes the difference between world cultures, I figure that the East-West dichotomy is also not thoroughly useful as a way to generalize these differences (myself coming from an Eastern, typically seen as collectivist culture). It seems to me that the world is in such a degree of confluence that these differences are no longer as clear as they used to be.

In my experience, I have struggled with finding the appropriate strategy of behavior for each situation. At work, especially in a corporate environment, does seem to call for a more individualistic, self-centered type of behavior. It just makes things more predictable and easier to handle, when you have very hard boundaries about what you will and will not accept in terms of responsibility, which has the side-effect of making you less willing to help others when the chance arises. I guess a little bit of flexibility can help, so that I don't miss opportunities to improve others lives in some way, even in an environment where people are mostly inaccessible on an emotional level.

I really like JPs example. It's easy to relate to and gives an immediate practical insight to one who is an average working-class citizen with an agreeable personality, especially one who is also taking on responsibility that is not commensurate to their pay grade. However, how would the person know when they are being shortchanged? This information is normally not easy to come by unless one has information about salaries of individual employees, and what their responsibilities are. I don't know, maybe an intuition sort of develops with time?

Thank you for posting the article, it gives good food for thought.
 

T.C.

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I don't think we should be afraid of learning to be less agreeable. The point is that if that's what we want to do, we do it for a good reason and we do it consciously as part of our Work on ourselves. I don't think being disagreeable means you're being more paychopathic. I'm sure a lot of psychopaths come across to others as being agreeable, because it's part of their mask of sanity.

Human society isn't exactly in great shape, and it's easy to fall into a desire or dream or hope of a time and place where 'everyone just gets along'. But when we look at nature in general, we are confronted with the fact that being alive is hard, and as well as having to kill other creatures so that we can survive, there are other creatures that want to kill us too, so that they can survive.

So I agree that there has to be a balance. There's no justification for being a jerk, but if you're a wet blanket, you're not going to cut it either.
 

Yas

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I also like how Jordan Peterson puts it. If you realise that you tend to be too agreeable, it's good to learn how to be a bit less agreeable in situations that require it.

True, the world might be organised in a way that makes agreeable people more likely to be less successful in money-related stuff, but we can't make much about it other than learning how to navigate through it in a more balanced way. And it becomes a life lesson to learn. It doesn't mean that one becomes a greedy person who will only care about money. It's more about learning how to "show your teeth" in an environment or situation that requires it.

I've found this video by JBP:


I think is very interesting that he says that agreeable people are too concerned with keeping the peace in the short term while conscientious people are more concerned about keeping peace in the long term. He then goes to say that conscientiousness doesn't come from any social drive, but I kind of disagree. I think that one can grow conscientiousness from agreeableness sometimes. For example, when you find yourself within a group (family, organisation, enterprise) where you identify yourself as part of that group and you share their aims, you can develop an awareness of what's important to keep that group operating properly and moving towards that aim in the long term. Then you become more conscientious and concerned not only with keeping the peace at the present but also in the future. But maybe I'm also confusing these traits a bit.

This is another very good video that is relevant to work, exploitation and some important things to learn when you are too agreeable:

 

T.C.

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I don't think we should be afraid of learning to be less agreeable. The point is that if that's what we want to do, we do it for a good reason and we do it consciously as part of our Work on ourselves. I don't think being disagreeable means you're being more paychopathic. I'm sure a lot of psychopaths come across to others as being agreeable, because it's part of their mask of sanity.

Human society isn't exactly in great shape, and it's easy to fall into a desire or dream or hope of a time and place where 'everyone just gets along'. But when we look at nature in general, we are confronted with the fact that being alive is hard, and as well as having to kill other creatures so that we can survive, there are other creatures that want to kill us too, so that they can survive.

So I agree that there has to be a balance. There's no justification for being a jerk, but if you're a wet blanket, you're not going to cut it either.

So I think the point I was getting at is that I don't know that I would use the fact that less agreeable people get paid more as a marker for how ponerised a society is. I think it's an evolutionary/natural issue, rather than a recent characterological deviation. If that makes sense.
 

Keit

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I don't think we should be afraid of learning to be less agreeable. The point is that if that's what we want to do, we do it for a good reason and we do it consciously as part of our Work on ourselves. I don't think being disagreeable means you're being more paychopathic. I'm sure a lot of psychopaths come across to others as being agreeable, because it's part of their mask of sanity.
What you say is true, but notice that in the research they use the term "meaner personalities". Not "less agreeable", but "meaner". It's possible that for the researchers it has the same meaning, but in a broader context, and especially when it comes to child behavior, there is a difference between a mean and disagreeable behavior. Or so it seems to me. It's the same as being assertive vs progressing by stepping on others.
 

beetlemaniac

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So I think the point I was getting at is that I don't know that I would use the fact that less agreeable people get paid more as a marker for how ponerised a society is. I think it's an evolutionary/natural issue, rather than a recent characterological deviation. If that makes sense.
I think you made a couple of good points there. One of them is that psychopaths can fake agreeableness. Essentially I think what you're getting at is that we fake who we are to get by and to survive in life.

Though it would be possible to say that in the milieu that we are in, where people live a mostly robotic and ignorant existence, that it is out of convenience and the fact that it benefits the organisation that truly agreeable people are basically exploited. The lack of conscientiousness and or even basic awareness on the part of the management is then to blame. Otherwise, it is basically a manipulative and devious type of mindset that would allow the status quo to remain the way it is.
 

Approaching Infinity

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What you say is true, but notice that in the research they use the term "meaner personalities". Not "less agreeable", but "meaner". It's possible that for the researchers it has the same meaning, but in a broader context, and especially when it comes to child behavior, there is a difference between a mean and disagreeable behavior. Or so it seems to me. It's the same as being assertive vs progressing by stepping on others.
I'm not sure if they're different traits or not. I'm pretty sure I've heard JBP say that meanness and disagreeableness are at least correlated. For example, the "dark triad" traits (psychopathy, machiavellianism, narcissism) are correlated with lack of agreeableness. So it's possible that the more disagreeable you are, the meaner you are too.

Here's another study with similar results:

A new study finds male workers deemed "agreeable" earn much less money than their tougher counterparts. There's a less pronounced pay difference for women. Study co-author Beth Livingston of Cornell University says managers do not realize that they're rewarding more hostile behavior. To explore the study and its ramifications, guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with Professor Livingston and Tell Me More's regular finance expert Alvin Hall. ...

Agreeableness is a complex personality trait and it really encompasses people who are kinder, more trusting, more cooperative. And those who are more disagreeable tend to be more competitive, arrogant, manipulative and they tend to value their relationships less than those who are agreeable.
NPR Choice page

Maybe disagreeable people are more naturally "assertive" because they don't really care about other people's feelings very much (i.e. they're more willing to step on others). And agreeable people have to learn to be assertive, but when they do, they will naturally be nicer about it because of their agreeable nature. And maybe other personality traits probably also contribute to how mean a person is, e.g., if they're less neurotic, less open, and more extraverted.
 

Keit

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Yeah, I did notice in my workplace that the management expects others to be more assertive/aggressive when it comes to progressing their career, because that's how they ended up in their position as well. It's like they reward a more pushier and competitive approach, but this is what also made the clinic more "at the top". It does have a more manipulative feel, and it's clear that this is how the "career game" is being played. So in the end it comes down to personal choices and what a person sees as more important in their life.

But I also think that people who are more on an agreeable spectrum should learn how to be more disagreeable. It is a matter of balance, basically. The remark about psychopathic friendly society has to do with the fact that in a different world we could thrive just as well without the need to adapt to the more aggressive/manipulative methods to get further in life.
 

flashgordonv

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Yeah, I did notice in my workplace that the management expects others to be more assertive/aggressive when it comes to progressing their career, because that's how they ended up in their position as well. It's like they reward a more pushier and competitive approach, but this is what also made the clinic more "at the top". It does have a more manipulative feel, and it's clear that this is how the "career game" is being played. So in the end it comes down to personal choices and what a person sees as more important in their life.

But I also think that people who are more on an agreeable spectrum should learn how to be more disagreeable. It is a matter of balance, basically. The remark about psychopathic friendly society has to do with the fact that in a different world we could thrive just as well without the need to adapt to the more aggressive/manipulative methods to get further in life.
I do wonder whether people who are "too agreeable" are in fact trying to keep the peace at all costs as they don't like confrontation and /or lack the courage to stand up for themselves. I certainly used to fit into this category and had to work really hard to get to the place where I could deal with confrontation, could deliver unpleasant news, could stand up to a boss who was being unreasonable or devious.

I had a salesman who worked for me who also fit the category perfectly. He just could not deliver bad news to a customer, would go to great lengths to avoid confronting his systems engineer who was running riot and working as few hours as possible. He survived only because the company was taken over and he moved to a new boss.

At one stage, the company I worked for needed to make a lot of people redundant in order to survive. It was my job to make 30 people in my group redundant and that was very difficult to do. But I prepared myself, I made sure the company was providing both support and a decent redundancy package and I did it with as much compassion and dignity as possible for the people who were leaving. Horrible work but it was necessary. And I learned from it as in due course my turn came, and my position was made redundant. Thanks to what I learned from ensuring my people were well treated, I ws able to stand up and reject the package offered to me and negotiate a package that was decent and conformed to the law.
 

luc

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Interesting discussion! Personally, I don't think that traits agreeableness/disagreeableness have a lot to do with psychopathy, and I'm not even sure if a society that would mitigate the negative effects of being too agreeable would be desirable.

I've known some very disagreeable people, one older guy comes to mind in particular - he's kind of a poster boy of disagreeableness: he quickly gets into arguments, often has rage fits, has "broken off" with dozens of people because of this or that issue, is quick to make spicy comments, feels threatened in his honor for minor stuff etc. etc. Yet, he is no a**hole - he's in fact a very warm guy, hard-working, has a deep sense of morality, common sense and reciprocity and so on. Also note that this guy (and other too disagreeable people I've known) shoot themselves in the foot all the time - their one-sidedness often stands in their way. They also aren't good manipulators at all because they just can't help being disagreeable and are honest in that sense.

Interestingly, this particular guy I have in mind is extremely good at spotting pathological people - more than once, he instinctively didn't like someone who was new, started to badmouth him, and while I initially thought "oh my, why is he so cruel?", it turned out quickly that he was absolutely right in his gut feeling and that the new one was a lazy, callous and toxic manipulator. And it makes sense: very agreeable people seem to have trouble with judging others if they put on a mask of "nicety". Disagreeable people are not "handicapped" in that sense, though they are "handicapped" in other ways.

So it seems to me that each of us has their own lessons to learn - the more agreeable people need to learn to incorporate their anger and use it productively, i.e. become more disagreeable if the situation requires it, while the more disagreeable people need to learn to play nice when appropriate.

It's also interesting that, at least in my experience, more disagreeable people gravitate to professional fields that suit theses traits, like blue collar jobs where the tone can be rough, very competitive fields and so on, while more agreeable people go to more "liberal" fields like media, social fields, arts etc., where everyone "plays nice" or pretends to do so.

So which environment would be best for the psychopath? I don't think that one is "better" for psychos than the other, really. In fact, psychopaths really thrive in "agreeable" environments because they can play the "nice guys" like a fiddle. Disagreeable people are generally less likely to take their BS and more likely to stand up to manipulation and so on. Also notice that nowadays, big corporations are all about "caring", "being nice", "flat hierarchies" and so on, i.e. they promote "agreeableness values". In fact, many manipulators probably prey on the deep desire of agreeable people for a "nice environment" where there is never any disagreement or hurt feeling (see safe spaces etc.)

On the other hand, extremely competitive environments where raw performance is all that counts, might not be ideal for psychopaths, because they can't smooth-talk and fool people, but are required to work hard. Of course, some psychopaths might be drawn to very competitive or "disagreeable" fields too where they can wage war all the time and pull off manipulations etc.

So yeah, I think it's complicated. Maybe one could say that a society where people genuinely care about other people is desirable, while a society that suits the desire of "agreeable people" (no feelings hurt, no hard-talks etc., play soft, don't be too ambitious etc.) is a dangerous illusion. Just some thoughts.
 

Keit

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So which environment would be best for the psychopath? I don't think that one is "better" for psychos than the other, really. In fact, psychopaths really thrive in "agreeable" environments because they can play the "nice guys" like a fiddle. Disagreeable people are generally less likely to take their BS and more likely to stand up to manipulation and so on. Also notice that nowadays, big corporations are all about "caring", "being nice", "flat hierarchies" and so on, i.e. they promote "agreeableness values". In fact, many manipulators probably prey on the deep desire of agreeable people for a "nice environment" where there is never any disagreement or hurt feeling (see safe spaces etc.)
Yes, it's definitely not cut and dry. For example, at my work we also have a vet, whom I secretly call "a polite asshole", because on one hand he is very agreeable and polite, but he also manipulates and tries to use others (albeit in a very subtle way) to do the dirty work for him. Basically he is very passive aggressive and releases his anger with all kind of strange (but oh so polite :rolleyes: comments).

Maybe I do tend to equate competitiveness with dark triad tendencies, because I don't handle competition well, and would prefer to step aside instead of going head on. On the other hand, I am not particularly "agreeable" in many situations.
 
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