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Why the philosophy of the "rich man's mentality" is perverse

October 1, 2022

On many occasions we hear people who attribute their economic status to their "rich mentality". This ambiguous concept is usually identified with personality variables, such as perseverance, willpower or self-sufficiency, and with intellectual capacity.

However, although there are psychological studies that confirm that personality and intelligence have a certain weight in professional success, the truth is that the philosophy of the "rich man's mentality" is fallacious because the level of income depends to a greater extent on external factors that are beyond the control of the individual.

How is intelligence measured?

The most common way to measure cognitive abilities is to use intelligence tests, which they value the performance of the person who answers the test in global skills such as verbal or abstract reasoning.

Intelligence tests frequently measure the "IQ". The IC is calculated by comparing a person's scores with those previously obtained by others of their age; if the score is 100, the subject will have an average CI, while the further away from this number the greater the distance from the average.

The well-known tests that consist in choosing which figure among four options is the most adequate to complete a series are good examples of IQ tests.

Skills tests are another way to measure intelligence, although they include more aspects. These tests measure different skills such as reasoning, calculation, verbal or mechanical skills. Unlike the IQ tests, the aptitude tests do not measure only intellectual skills and are mainly used in job counseling and in the selection of personnel.

How does intelligence influence the economic level?

A low IQ is related to lower capacities , especially at the verbal level and in relation to abstract reasoning. This can make it difficult for people with intellectual functional diversity to access certain activities and professions.

IQ has a limited direct influence on professional status, and therefore on income; However, intelligence has an impact on the educational level and this on the professional, so that a relevant indirect influence is produced.

The scientific literature states that, although a very low intelligence makes it difficult to achieve a high economic status, having a high IQ only explains the level of income by 1 or 2%. The aptitude tests predict wealth better than those of CI, since they are related to more concrete and relevant skills for certain professional roles.

In addition, although intelligence explained the economic success of people, the IC is largely inherited from the parents and mothers. That is, it does not have much to do with will power, and from puberty the results in intelligence tests applied to a person become very predictable.

In any case, if we talk about the influence of psychology on the economic level, personality seems to have a more relevant role than intelligence.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The theories of human intelligence"

The 5 big personality factors

The most popular personality model today is what we know as "model of the five major factors" or "OCEAN model", by the acronym in English of the personality variables that compose it.

According to the model, these five great personality factors are manifested in each person at a point on a continuum with two poles: Extraversion-Introversion, Neuroticism-Emotional Stability, Responsibility-Negligence, Kindness-Antagonism and Openness to Experience-Conventionalism.

Each one of these factors comprises a series of personality subfactors . For example, the Responsibility factor includes the need for achievement and self-discipline, and shyness and impulsivity are included in Neuroticism.

  • Related article: "The 5 big personality traits: sociability, responsibility, openness, kindness and neuroticism"

Personality and wealth

The influence of personality on the economic level It has been analyzed using the model of the five major factors. A study by Borghans and his associates states that the Responsibility factor is the one that explains financial success the most.

The "Responsibility" construct includes perseverance, self-discipline and industriousness, among other characteristics. The Borghans team affirms that, as is the case with the IC, these variables increase the academic performance and later the work. Other personality factors are also important. Openness to experience increases performance , whereas an excess of introversion or neuroticism can worsen it to a great extent.

Unlike the CI, these personality attributes are more modifiable , so that people who promote the development of a "rich mentality" (as in some Internet sites and businesses) tend to give them more weight. It is also less likely that we become rich if our social skills are poor.

On the other hand, scientific research also gives more importance to personality than to intelligence. Even so, globally other non-modifiable variables have a much more relevant role than the psychological ones.

The income level is inherited

The two factors that most influence the economic level of any person they are your country of birth and your parents' income level . According to studies, these variables explain approximately 80% of the economic status, while it would be difficult to attribute more than 5% to the psychological variables.

The economic level of the parents influences in many ways that of the children. Perhaps the clearest effect is the improvement in access to academic training opportunities, especially in countries where there is no equal public education.

These differences are especially noticeable in societies where socio-economic mobility is very low , like those that are organized through a caste system.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Poverty affects the brain development of children"

The concentration of money explains the inequalities

According to the economist Thomas Piketty, known for his historical analyzes of the evolution of the economy in various countries, in societies where heredity is unimportant, work has a much greater weight in enrichment.

Conversely, the more concentrated the patrimonies in a reduced number of people it is harder to get rich by your own effort. The stagnation of the population that currently takes place in most of the world further increases this accumulation of wealth.

In addition, having savings and property is as a rule much more profitable than obtaining money from work, especially if you start "from scratch", as happens with working class people.

In this way, the current economic trend around the world promotes that wealth depends more on the economic level of parents than on the effort or. Of course, the variables of personality and intelligence also contribute to socioeconomic mobility, but they have a much lower weight, closer to that of luck.

The explanations that attribute wealth only to effort and capacity disregard more important non-modifiable variables such as our family. Although effort or luck are essential to get rich, do not forget that the best way to earn money is to have it.

Bibliographic references:

  • Borghans, L., Golsteyn, B. H., Heckman, J. J. & Humphries J. E. (2016). What grades and achievement tests measure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113 (47), 13354-59.
  • Piketty, T. (2014). The capital in the 21st century. Barcelona: RBA Books.

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