Aug 062012

To help protect the economy (and our citizens), do we need to start teaching our future businessmen and women differently?

The financial crisis showed that people can be greedy. But, where does greed come from? Is it something innate? Or something that’s taught and nurtured–for example, at business schools? And, if so, what exactly is it that turns decent people into greedy people?

study published earlier this year–looking at the effect of economics education on B-school students–provides some hints. And the conclusions ought to worry colleges offering Econ 101.

Wanting to test whether economics leads students to have more positive views of greed–that is, to rationalize, or feel more comfortable with, greedy behavior–academics from Northwestern and Harvard designed three experiments.

The first compared how economics and non-economics students played a “dictator game“, where participants are given $10 and choose how much to keep, and how much to distribute to other players. It found the economics students kept more of the $10 than the other students.

The second asked a range of students (a third were economics majors) to describe times when they had been greedy, and to say how they felt about that (e.g., justified or unjustified). The economics students were more likely to have positive attitudes about greedy behavior.

The final test split non-economics students into three. One group read a short statement from a famous economist on the benefits of self-interest; the second read about the negative effects of self-interest; and a third read an unrelated control statement. The first group were more likely to accept greedy behavior.

Read more . . .

via FastCoExist – Ben Schiller

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