People with cynical traits, the researchers of a new study observe, are less willing to rely on others, which could seriously affect their career prospects. They tend to shy away from collaboration and avoid asking questions, which may feed into lower salaries than their more optimistic peers.
These results, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, were based on data from five different studies that spanned 42 countries and involved more than 60,000 people. The participants were asked questions to assess their psychological traits and this was compared with other information from their lives, sometimes over decades.
In one of the studies, conducted in Germany, researchers noted the earnings and psychological traits of participants in 2003 and 2012. They found that the least cynical person earned about €240 (about $270) more per month than the most cynical person 10 years later.
Although the researchers believe that cynicism may lead to lower pay, it is possible that lower salaries make people more cynical. Also, life experiences, such as growing up in economic hardship or a negative family environment, can obviously impact people’s attitude, which can further affect their ability to form trusting relationships—and conspire to generate a lower income.
In some situations, however, cynicism can be beneficial. In countries where a general anti-social feeling prevails, such as those suffering from civil war, cynicism does not lead to a lower salary. Instead, a cynic’s skeptical stance towards others in this febrile environment might help them earn slightly more.
Barring those exceptional situations, however, it is hard to argue that cynicism will do you much good.