Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


social-exclusion

(ILLUSTRATION: EL GRECO/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Beware Working on Your 401(k) Those Days You Feel Left Out

• August 05, 2013 • 2:59 PM

(ILLUSTRATION: EL GRECO/SHUTTERSTOCK)

People who feel excluded take bigger financial risks.

Remember day trading? Despite bear markets and even a smidgen of regulation, sitting by yourself—even if it was in a room full of people—making quick decisions to buy or sell stocks online never went away. And it’s still pretty much fiscal solitaire. Is it possible that being a cyber-titan of finance is less a factor of unbridled avarice and more a factor of unrelieved loneliness?

Probably not, but new research just discussed at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting does suggest a link between social exclusion and financial risk taking. Three marketing professors in Hong Kong led by Rod Duclos wanted to extend existing work on the consumption patterns of those who bowl alone. Scholarship has suggested that people feeling on the outs spend their money on symbols of affiliation, whether it’s a new fashion favored by the “in” group, new taste sensations, or even favored illegal intoxicants.

Societal watchdogs should keep a wary eye on companies that may prey on people who are somewhat permanently on the social periphery.

They theorized that paying for all of these trappings of purchased popularity required some extra scratch: “in absence of social support, forlorn consumers will need significantly more money to secure what they need out of the social system.” One way to get rich quick is to gamble, whether at a green-felt table or while wearing a green eyeshade. In five experiments—four on undergrads at the University of Hong Kong and one in surveys of men and women in public—the researchers compared the subjects’ sense of social exclusion and their willingness to take a punt.

In the experiments with the undergrads, only one set was made to feel excluded. In all cases, the excluded students took greater financial chances, whether on a lottery, a digital wheel of chance, or a putative investment decision in the stock market. The stock experiment also included priming for some subjects that suggested money wouldn’t, in essence, buy happiness; the message must have stuck, because the excluded in that instance didn’t take more risks. Meanwhile, those who felt accepted were more risk averse.

While the pattern appeared across all five experiments, Duclos and his co-authors went to some pains to stress that feeling rejected was just one aspect of what goes into a financial decision, risky or otherwise. Plus, all exclusion isn’t created equal. Being ignored may be more pernicious, for example, than being kicked in the teeth.

Still, even if it’s not the only variable, since rejection does seem to play a role, they offer some suggestions—and some warnings. On one hand, the authors write, consumers might want to hold off on big decisions, whether overtly financial, like setting up a retirement plan, or costly in general, like buying a car after a break-up or falling out. (And no matter how much like Daft Punk you feel after the divorce, stay away from Vegas.) And societal watchdogs should keep a wary eye on companies that may prey on people who are somewhat permanently on the social periphery.

“Some marketers with questionable ethics may target demographic groups likely to suffer from social exclusion, such as the elderly, divorcees, and widows or widowers,” Duclos was quoted in a release. “Others may be tempted to isolate, physically or psychologically, prospective clients during financial negotiations since doing so may result in larger commissions.”

Money isn’t the only thing we can chance. There’s also our lives, and the authors wonder if feeling excluded might foster some risky business there, too. Like when we’re alone—oh, so very alone—in our cars.

I’m sorry I was speeding officer, but you see, I don’t have any friends.

Michael Todd
Most of Michael Todd's career has been spent in newspaper journalism, ranging from papers in the Marshall Islands to tiny California farming communities. Before joining the publishing arm of the Miller-McCune Center, he was managing editor of the national magazine Hispanic Business.

More From Michael Todd

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


October 22 • 4:00 AM

For Preschoolers, Spite and Smarts Go Together

New research from Germany finds greater cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children.


October 21 • 4:00 PM

Why the Number of Reported Sexual Offenses Is Skyrocketing at Occidental College

When you make it easier to report assault, people will come forward.


October 21 • 2:00 PM

Private Donors Are Supplying Spy Gear to Cops Across the Country Without Any Oversight

There’s little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police.


October 21 • 12:00 PM

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

Maybe as smart as a four-year-old child?


October 21 • 10:00 AM

Converting the Climate Change Non-Believers

When hard science isn’t enough, what can be done?



October 21 • 8:00 AM

Education Policy Is Stuck in the Manufacturing Age

Refining our policies and teaching social and emotional skills will help us to generate sustained prosperity.


October 21 • 7:13 AM

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you’ve (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.


October 21 • 6:00 AM

Fruits and Vegetables Are About to Enter a Flavor Renaissance

Chefs are teaming up with plant breeders to revitalize bland produce with robust flavors and exotic beauty—qualities long neglected by industrial agriculture.


October 21 • 4:00 AM

She’s Cheating on Him, You Can Tell Just by Watching Them

New research suggests telltale signs of infidelity emerge even in a three- to five-minute video.


October 21 • 2:00 AM

Cheating Demographic Doom: Pittsburgh Exceptionalism and Japan’s Surprising Economic Resilience

Don’t judge a metro or a nation-state by its population numbers.


October 20 • 4:00 PM

The Bird Hat Craze That Sparked a Preservation Movement

How a fashion statement at the turn of the 19th century led to the creation of the first Audubon societies.


October 20 • 2:00 PM

The Risk of Getting Killed by the Police If You Are White, and If You Are Black

An analysis of killings by police shows outsize risk for young black males.


October 20 • 12:00 PM

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they’re motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.


October 20 • 11:00 AM

My Dog Comes First: The Importance of Pets to Homeless Youth

Dogs and cats have both advantages and disadvantages for street-involved youth.


October 20 • 10:00 AM

Homophobia Is Not a Thing of the Past

Despite growing support for LGBT rights and recent decisions from the Supreme Court regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, the battle for acceptance has not yet been decided.


Follow us


My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.