If you are studying economics take note. According to a raft of research, economics students become greedier, more selfish and less charitable over the course of their degree. Writing in Psychology Today, Adam Grant has compiled the results of numerous surveys and research on the behaviour of students studying economics. Studies indicate that ‘altruistic values drop among economics majors’ and economics students have a ‘greater acceptance of greed’ and ‘less concern for fairness’. Ouch. Apparently even just thinking about economics can make us less caring. One of the studies cited showed that ‘economics students were more likely than students from other majors to recommend an overpriced plumber when they were paid to do it.’
Before I get lots of comments from annoyed students, I know that this is not true of everyone. This year three of our Victoria Plus Award recipients were majoring in economics. Given that this is a leadership award with a high emphasis on volunteering, student support, giving back to the community and social responsibility, it is clear that studying economics does not eliminate all sense of altruism. And for students who do find themselves struggling with an economics induced Scrooge-like disposition, give volunteering a go. You will be surprised how good it makes you feel.