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Study suggests we'd rather work more than be happy

Apparently many Americans are obsessed with accumulating wealth, even if it's more than they can spend.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 14, 2014 1:17PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyEver heard the phrase "work hard, play hard"? Sounds good, but what happens when you work so hard that you have time for nothing else.


Americans seem to be wired that way -- choosing to work more even when they don't have to -- prompting a group of researchers to do a study. Says their abstract in Psychological Science: "(W)e found that individuals do overearn, even at the cost of happiness, and that overearning is a result of mindless accumulation -- a tendency to work and earn until feeling tired rather than until having enough."


Office workers © ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/CorbisThe research "shows a deeply rooted instinct to earn more than can possibly be consumed, even when this imbalance makes us unhappy," says The New York Times.


Simply put, the research went like this: The subjects were given a choice of listening to pleasant music or white noise. They were told they could earn a certain number of chocolates by listening to the noise. Some were "high earners," having to listen to less noise to earn a chocolate, the Times says.


They were also told they'd have a certain amount of time to eat the chocolates after the test and were asked to estimate how much they could eat in that time. The high earners on average said they'd have time to eat 3.75 chocolates, but they listened to enough noise to earn 10.74.


"In other words, they subjected themselves to harsh noise to earn more than they could consume, or predicted they could consume," the Times says.


The same tendency was found among the "low earners." It was clear "that both groups were driven by the same thing: not by how much they need, but by how much work they could withstand," the Times said.


Is it a hopeless situation? The abstract also says the study found that "prompting individuals to consider the consequences of their earnings or denying them excessive earnings can disrupt mindless accumulation and enhance happiness."


Do you think Americans are like that? Are you?


More on Money Talks News

116Comments
Jan 14, 2014 2:20PM
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No, I'd rather work more than be on government assistance.
Jan 14, 2014 1:35PM
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I bet the government paid these idiots for this stupid research. Like chocolates and listening to noise compare  to money and work. Instead of listening to noise give them a  shovel and pay them with real $.
Jan 14, 2014 1:52PM
Jan 14, 2014 2:48PM
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In China and many Far East countries, there is no such thing as "Welfare".  There, kids are taught that they should study hard, get good grades, and excell in school in order to not be poor and have to be taken care of by their parents.   In countries like that, education is equated not just with success but mere survival.  Maybe if that attitude was more apparent in the US, then we would have less people on welfare and more people who are educated.
Jan 14, 2014 1:40PM
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Yes - if you are smart, you will find a way to exploit these these "hard workers" for profit so you can spend time enjoying your life and be happy.
Jan 14, 2014 2:23PM
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Umm...What's wrong with working and being happy at the same time???  And what make these so-called researchers believe that they're mutually exclusive??
Jan 14, 2014 3:05PM
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I'd rather play and be happy than work like dogs and answer to a stinkin boss everyday..
Jan 14, 2014 3:53PM
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Study suggests psychologists waste too much time on studying how much white noise a person can stand when they should really be studying why crazy people snap and go on killing sprees.
Jan 14, 2014 4:03PM
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What a crock of s__t!  We work more because we need more money to live on due to prices for everything getting higher and higher!  And yes, I understand that some people are happy at their job but MOST of us are not and there is not much we can do about it with the economy the way it is.I would much rather work less and be happy because after 42 years of working, it's getting old just like me!
Jan 14, 2014 3:39PM
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What a bunch of crap! There is no incentive to be happy in the US.

Working is not a choice.

Happiness is.

People "overearn" not out of want, but out of necessity.

 I can't believe people were actually paid to conduct this crappy experiment. Furthermore I'm disappointed my MSN chose to give this story any merit.

Jan 14, 2014 3:35PM
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Many Americans are like that. Witness how many Americans don't take all the vacation time they have earned. Witness also the many Americans who work multiple jobs just so they can shop more. It really is pathetic. 
Jan 14, 2014 3:41PM
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Happy my derriere!! We need good paying jobs!! Happiness is a state of mind!!
Jan 14, 2014 3:51PM
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"The research "shows a deeply rooted instinct ...".  Utter nonsense!  People have instincts, Americans don't have distinct instincts.  We are conditioned this way.  


Would south sea islanders have the same "instincts"?  Would the French?  The Spanish?  Anybody with any common sense?  We are taught this destructive habit.  (Just as we are taught that guns are the answer to our problems, and giving more money to people who already have more money than anybody needs is a good idea.)

Jan 14, 2014 4:27PM
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And when test subjects were simply given chocolates, without having to work for them, all they wanted to do was sit back and listen to the pleasant music while eating the free government chocolates.
Jan 14, 2014 2:59PM
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Why do you want to work more?
      To get more money.
Why do you want more money?
      Because that would make me happy.
Everything we do is to make us happy.

Jan 14, 2014 2:45PM
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Why does MSN (or anyone for that matter) assume that a person cannot be happy while working?  Is it only possible to be happy when you are not out earning your living, or maybe a little extra?  What is MSN trying to slowly infuse into our consciousness that life is so much better when everything is provided by others, and you don't have to worry about anything but enjoying yourself. 
Jan 14, 2014 4:03PM
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I rather work hard and get a decent wage for an honest day's work. Sure I would love to be a millionaire but I really rather just be comfortable and finically secure. I don't need the moon. I just don't want to live paycheck to paycheck and would like to be able to "do things" once in awhile and not have to always hold back because of cost or uncertainty in the future. We all want to be happy but in the current climate of the screw you Middle and working class approach of Washington (dems and repubs) and similar tone from Wall St. what do you expect? We have no choice but to go without and work all we can. Stop the greed and see that concentrating bulk of wealth at the top .01% is not a good thing and you will see the economy and the country improve, as well as improving those that own the businesses and sit at the top. It can be win win if we want it to be.


I think its time

Jan 14, 2014 3:38PM
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Work should be fun.  If you do not enjoy your job then find a new one or make your own.
Jan 14, 2014 3:52PM
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Well!!!!!!!!!  Finally a logical reason why 1/2 of our population is lazy non-working leeches. Spot on, MSLSD.
Jan 14, 2014 2:15PM
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