Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why do people show off?

Good morning all! Yesterday, I stopped for petrol in a centrally located station in Nicosia. Suddenly I heard loud music when I turned around I saw a gentleman in his 40s driving a Porsche Cayenne. He stopped at the pump right next to my car and told the attendant to pump 5 Euros worth of gas!. I found this to be both funny and sad at the same time because the 5 Euros worth of gas would just be enough to take this person home. Why do we feel the need to show off? I remembered Hyacinth and Richard from the show "Keeping up Appearances". For those of you that do not remember take a look at the video below.

Hyacinth was a person that always had to show off to the people around her. She even considered buying a Rolls Royce, a car that her family could not afford, just for showing off. Now, given, there are wealthy individuals in the world that would like to project their status so they surround themselves with expensive items. I will not judge that. But why would someone go out of his way to show off?

Psychologists explain showing off as a sign of inferiority or low self esteem. In economics, we can explain this phenomenon as a reaction to a long term factor which causes disutility or discomfort. In a previous article I explained the need for people to shop when they feel bad. This was the short term reaction to a feeling of discomfort.

When the problem is long term however, people deal with this disutility by taking long term actions, for example, buying an expensive car like in the case of Hyacinth. What was Hyacinth's source of disutility or discomfort? Her family (take a look at the short video below).

She constantly felt the need to balance her long term utility by going to extremes in order to show off to the world. Is your utility level balanced?

Have a high utility day!

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