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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Human irrationality about money

I'm a big fan of Financial Jesus and pop in for entertaining financial news. Below is an intriguing article I found and wanted to share it with you.


I am a big fan of behavioral economics which tries to explain why people act the way they do.
Here are 3 interesting experiments that scientists have made in order to get a better insight into how people relate to money.


The Ultimatum Game
You are given 100 dollars. You need to decide how to split this money between yourself and another person taking part of the experiment. If the other person accepts the amount that you will give him – you will both get to keep your share of the money. If the other person declines – neither of you get the money.
This experiment is set up in order to reveal whether mankind is rational (as the economic theory suggests) or not.
A rational person would accept any amount offered because he or she knows that when he doesn’t accept the amount that is offered to him – he gets nothing. In other words if the first person(A) taking part of the experiment suggests to the second person(B) that they should split the money $99 to A and $1 to B – the second person should accept. Rationally looking it is better to get 1 dollar than nothing.

What really happens?Proposals to accept less than 30 dollars are usually rejected. The reason? According to our judgment the proposal is not fair. If you are offered a small amount of money while the other person gets a lot more (that comes from potentially your money) – you’ll have a feeling of injustice and would rather not get money than to get a small amount and feel bad afterwards.

Perceived value of money
The following is a thought experiment. Would you rather earn 100 000 dollars when everyone around you makes $50 000 or would you rather make $200 000 when everyone around you makes $400 000. The only rule you have to keep in mind is that the cost of living and goods stays the same. Which option will most people choose? A rational person would choose the second option, where he makes more money but less than people around him. That way he will have twice as much to spend. In reality most people choose the first option – being richer than other people. Some scientist think this experiment demonstrates the irrationality of man. I disagree. This experiment clearly shows that social rank is far more important to people than the amount of money they have. If one can choose between more money than your friends vs. less money than your friends – it is a rational decision to choose the first option (even when the total amount of money is less than in the second option). In this experiment people make an irrational money decision but a rational “people decision”. The latter outweighs the first.

The Line Experiment
The first person is standing in a line. When he gets to the counter he is congratulated on being the 1 millionth customer and as a gift gets 100 dollars. A second person is standing in a line at a different place. The man in front of him is congratulated for being the 1 millionth customer and wins 1000 dollars. The second person wins $150 for being the 1 million and first person. Which would you rather be? Surprisingly most people would choose the first option – getting the $100. Money wise this is a bad decision – you lose 50 bucks. The reason most people would rather lose the $50 is because they don’t want to feel the regret of not being the millionth person themselves and winning $1000.

What do these experiments show

These experiments show us, that just like in other things people can at times be irrational when it comes to their money. There are situations in life that are more important than money and economists need to understand this. When talking about economy (and the stock market), we should realize that economy consists of ordinary people who at times make financial decisions that are money wise bad for them.

Source: www.financialjesus.com