Gordon, R.M. (1975). Effects of interpersonal and economic resources upon values and the quality of life. Dissertation Abstracts International, 36, 3122B. (University Microfilms No. 75-28, 220). Summarized in Gordon, R.M. (2006d) An Expert Look at Love, Intimacy and Personal Growth. IAPT Press, Allentown, Pa. (Chapter 1 Love and Happiness)
For my Ph.D. dissertation, I asked what made people happy and why. My dissertation involved 13 experiments including developing my own test of values (the REVIR test). I looked at both economic and interpersonal resources and how their exchange affected one’s quality of life.
In 1976,Psychology Today reviewed my Ph.D. dissertation “Effects of interpersonal and economic resources upon values and the quality of life.” (1975), in their article "Love: The Most Important Ingredient in Happiness."
I took a broad look at the causes of happiness. I used Uriel G. Foa's resource-exchange theory. According to Foa, people exchange six main resources in their relations with others: love (warmth, affection), status (respect, esteem), information (advice, knowledge), money, goods and services (work, labor). I believed that happiness depends on which resources individuals learn to value most and how well they succeed in obtaining them.
Foa (1974) brilliantly brought together psychological theory and economic theory into a single model. He theorized that the mind classified exchangeable resources into categories.
The main psychological resources that we can exchange are: love, status, and information. The main economic resources that we can exchange are money, goods and services.
Love and money are resources at opposite ends of the particular-universal dimension. Love is the most particularistic resource. We exchange it with only a few carefully chosen people. Money on the other hand, is universal; we exchange it with nearly anyone.
There is also the symbolic-concrete dimension. Status and information are resources that are more symbolic and goods and services are resources that are more concrete. Foa developed a mathematical circomplex of psychological and economic resources along these two dimensions (see figure 1).
Resources at opposite ends of dimensions are less similar in a person's mind, and therefore less substitutable than resources next to one another. For example, money and information are next to one another. The credit card is between money and information. A credit card has elements of both having monetary and information value.
However, money is at the opposite end of love and is not a good substitute resource for love. Services are a more acceptable substitute for love. For example, some parents can only concretely show love through giving services (care giving).
Figure 1. Foa's model of psychological and economic resources along a mathematical circomplex.
In my dissertation research, I developed tests to measure how much value a person placed on each resource, how much of each resource a person had received as a child, how much a person was receiving presently and how happy the person was.
The REVIR (Relative Exchange Value of Interpersonal Resources) test measures the value individuals assign to each of the six resources Foa described, plus sex. Sex is a resource between love and services on Foa's mathematical circomplex. It can be closer to either love or services depending on the degree of intimacy.
My REVIR test consists of 63 questions in three elements of life: work, marriage and wish. The type of work individuals would like to do and the kind of spouse they prefer reflects values. I included questions on wishes to let people express their values if social institutions did not constrain them.
The questions offer a series of choices among the seven resources. In the portion of the test devoted to wishes, for example, each question starts out: “If I had my choice between two wishes, I would prefer . . .” Then there are 21 either/or choices, such as: “(a) to have financial security or (b) to have great knowledge and wisdom… (a) to have a life of wealth luxury or (b) to have a fulfilling sex life.” By the time someone answers all the questions, he or she will have ranked money, love and five other resources 21 different times.
Similar choices are presented in the 21 spouse questions and the 21 worker questions. By adding the number of times a person preferred each resource in the 63 choices, I came up with a score that reflected how important each resource was to that individual.
To uncover the personal history behind these preferences, I developed a Resource Income Survey (RIS) to identify which resources individuals had received most in childhood, which they are receiving now, and how happy they are.
I had to validate my tests. In doing so, I found that I had to make corrections to an early version of the RIS based on the preliminary results.
I got lopsided results to the question, "How much love did you receive as a child?" Most people claimed that they received a lot of love. (Later I found in my clinical work that people have trouble perceiving how much they were loved.) When I changed the question on my test to, "How demonstrative was your mother in showing love?"- I received more varied responses.
I administered the REVIR and RIS tests to 346 students. The full and part-time day and evening students at Temple University provided a wide range of age, ethnicity and economic backgrounds.
I found that love correlated most closely with happiness, followed by the two other particularistic resources, services and status.
How much any one resource affects happiness depended partly on how well it worked with other resources in contributing to a person’s happiness. For example, I found that much of the happiness derived from sex results from its association with love.
I found that love was responsible for three quarters of the effect all resources had on the students’ happiness, with services, feeling financially secure, sex and information accounting for the rest. Beyond that, additional money, status and goods have no real effect on happiness.
Poverty brings suffering that only money can cure. However, after people are living within their means and paying their bills, additional riches have little lasting effect on enduring happiness. It seems that well off people eventually habituate to their wealth. The riches are too different a resource to compensate for any problems with intimacy.
I found little relationship between people's family incomes when they were a child and how much they valued money as adults. However, the amount of love an individual received in childhood had a strong effect on the current valuation of both love and money.
If the students received little love as children, by adulthood they defensively learned to devalue love as a reliable resource. Those who came from families in which love and money were both scarce placed the least value on love.
Students who grew up in love-poor families valued money much more than those who received a lot of love as children. This was true whether their families were poor or were well off.
It seems that when money is scarce, people learn to concentrate their energies on financial survival. Students from affluent but love-poor families, on the other hand, may learn to value money as a substitute for love, as a means of security or as an indication of their personal worth.
I found that adults who felt they were not receiving much love currently, usually over valued goods as a resource. It was as if they felt that they would get more immediate gratification from the possession of an object than from an intimacy, which they grew to associate with frustration.
If this materialism is an attempt to compensate for a lack of love, it is not likely to work. People who placed a high value on money and goods tended to avoid the intimate commitments that are most likely to give them the love that they need. It is also important to distinguish between the use of things as substitutes for relationships, verses the healthy enjoyment of the finer things in life. The rejection of money and materialism does not make one noble or loveable. The point is that no amount of money or goods can substitute for love.
Money or goods were the most common substitutes for love, but some people use information (ideas) instead. The over intellectualized individual may find it easier to manipulate ideas than to deal with emotions and intimacy.
My research showed that love is by far the most important resource in people’s lives. It relates most to happiness. Love plays the biggest role in forming values that guide life choices and lifestyles.
The data supports the importance of childhood experiences in the quality of life. Someone who experienced a shortage of love in childhood is likely to have unhappiness as an adult, and might develop beliefs and defenses that perpetuate the unhappiness.
How then do we treat this cycle of unhappiness based on childhood traumas with intimacy?