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Social Comparisons and Management of Windfalls: Lottery Winners’ Experiences of Relative Wealth

Chapter in book
Authors Anna Hedenus
Published in Advances in Psychology Research: v. 90
Pages 87-104
ISBN 978-1-61942-339-8
Publisher Nova Science Publishers
Place of publication New York
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 87-104
Language en
Subject categories Sociology

Abstract

Upon hitting the jackpot, many lottery winners have been shown to experience feelings of guilt and shame toward other, less fortunate, people. Previous research also demonstrates that many winners are concerned not to radically change their lives, but to “keep a low profile” and to conform to the living standards of their friends and families. This suggests that our social environments have major implications for how a windfall is managed. Interview data collected among Swedish lottery millionaires, and presented in this chapter, underlines this argument. The discussion reveals that the interviewees act upon an experience of “relative wealth” which, in a society with strong egalitarian ideals, is perceived as sometimes very troublesome. To avoid the disturbing feeling that the prize money is not properly earned or deserved; or, that others might actually be more in need of that money; the lottery winners often refrain from more luxurious spending. Even though the winners do adapt their preferences and expenditures to their new economic status, these adaptations are clearly social processes where the lottery winners first need to find approval for an increased level of consumption. The lottery winners’ spending patterns after winning are therefore dependent on the social comparisons they make to different groups of reference.

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