• Project Title: Who Wants to be a Billionaire? The Psychology of Wealth, Socioeconomic Inequality, and Attitudes towards a Billionaire's Tax

  • BASIS Advisor: Dr. Hight

  • Internship Location: The University of Maryland, Decision, Attention, and Memory Lab

  • Onsite Mentor: Dr. David A. Illingworth and Michael Dougherty

The three wealthiest American billionaires (Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates) own more collective wealth than the entire bottom 50% of Americans combined. This staggering statistic leaves you wondering: how did this immense inequality come to be, and, more surprisingly, why do so many Americans think it’s just? This project intends to use the psychology of wealth to understand fundamental differences between the uber-wealthy and the other 99.9%. It looks into both the conscious logic and unconscious motivations that drive the actions of the wealthy regarding spending and taxes, as well as how individuals of lower socioeconomic status differ in such patterns. To supplement my review of past research, I will also participate in a research internship at the University of Maryland’s Decision, Attention, and Memory (DAM) Lab, allowing me to develop practical research skills in the fields of behavioral science, psychology, and neuroscience. Together, these research experiences will help me answer the following questions: In what ways and to what extent are there psychological and cognitive bases for differences in attitudes toward money and loss among the uber-wealthy when compared to Americans of lower socioeconomic status? And: What are the potential policy implications that may arise from a better understanding of the psychology of wealth, for instance on suggestions such as the “Billionaires’ Tax”?