‘Beating the Joneses’ is a Mega Motivator

More is not enough. People want more than others, suggests a new study on how money motivates.

University of Bonn researchers used brain scanning to show how much people take others’ earnings to measure our own success. Economists and brain scientists tested male subjects in pairs, asking them to perform simple tasks and promising payments for success. Using magnetic resonance tomographs, the researchers examined the volunteers’ brain activities.

Participants who got more money than their co-players showed much stronger activation in the brain’s “reward center” than when both players received the same amount. So it’s not what we have that matters most, but rather what we have in relation to others.

It’s an odd trait, to be sure. “Keeping up with the Joneses” robs us of being grateful for what we have, and living blissfully in the present.

As far as marketing goes, “get ahead of your peers” proves to be a powerful motivator, and marketing and sales types will likely exploit this on an increasing level.

Leave the Joneses in the dust might appear on billboards and websites near you.

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