Social Science Writing Guild
September 26, 2014
You Can’t Take It With You, But You Still Want More
The suffix –aholic indicates that the person this term is being used to describe is one who feels compulsively the need to do something or is addicted to something, and workaholics are on the rise. Workaholism is associated with overearning, the tendency to forgo leisure and work beyond one’s needs, and recently research has been studying the question, do people overearn? This research was published in the journal of Psychological Science and has been evaluated for New York Times readers by reporter Matt Richtel in his article “You Can’t Take It With You, But You Still Want More”. Richtel writes an article that helps readers understand the researcher’s methods, results, and the overall purpose of their experiment, but does not completely tell readers the strengths and weaknesses of the research. While Richtel’s article accurately portrays the experiment and its results, it lacks in its criticism of the strengths and weaknesses of the research due to more emphasis on journalism and less emphasis on science. Original Research
In the original research, the researchers studied the question do people overearn? In other words, the researchers wanted to know if people forgo leisure to work and earn beyond their needs. They stated that the question is understudied because it is difficult to determine the right amount of earning and to define overearning. Therefore, the researchers introduced a highly simplified experimental paradigm to study overearning in a controlled laboratory setting. Before conducting their experiment, the researchers hypothesized that participants would overearn and were more likely to do so when earning rates, the number of times a participant would have to do something before they earned their reward, were high rather than low. The researchers also hypothesized that while earning, participants focus on nominal earnings rather than the consumption consequences of the earnings. Using the method of the simplified paradigm, the researchers discovered that individuals do overearn, even at the cost of happiness. According to Hsee (2013), overearning is a result of mindless accumulation—a tendency to work and earn until feeling tired rather than until having enough (Hsee, 2013, p. 852).
The researcher’s experiment consisted of two phases. In the first phase, participants sat in front of a computer wearing a headset for five minutes, and had the option of listening to piano music or to an annoying noise. The participants earned pieces of Dove chocolate when they listened to the noise a certain number of times. Some participants had a high earning rate, which means they listened to the noise fewer times to get each piece of chocolate; those who had a low earning rate had to listen more times. In the second phase, the participants could eat the chocolate they earned, but they would have to leave any chocolate they did not eat, and they were asked how much they expected to be able to eat. The high earners predicted that they could eat 3.75 chocolates and the low earners predicted 3.77. The high earners listened to the noise enough to earn 10.74 chocolates and the low earners earned 2.54. Then the high earners only ate 4.26 chocolates and the low earners 1.68. The participants were also asked to rate the music and the noise on a scale of one to six, one being extremely unpleasant and six being extremely pleasant. Results showed that the music was more pleasant than the noise, but other findings showed that the participants subjected themselves to the annoying noise to earn more than they could even eat, or predicted they could eat. The researcher’s experiment included two other similar short studies that also proved that even when overearning would undermine consumption experiences, participants still overearned and that earners...
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