A Duke University Study About the Minds of Savers

I found an interesting article here. This is a small study out of Duke University about how different savers and non-savers are. Apparently our eyes tell our differences in how we think. That’s pretty cool if true, and it could lead to psychological methods to help train non-savers into savers.

Now a Word of Caution

A buddy of mine from high school is now a shrink; I’m quite proud of him. He is also an expert in statistics getting a minor in that as well, and he warned me to be careful of drawing too many conclusions from small studies that have not been duplicated by other researchers. This is of course a bit of common sense, but I do get excited when I hear interesting studies regardless of the field. I’m just better at being skeptical of their conclusions in the areas that I have greater experience and education. In truth, such caution was part of my engineering education, and I am also one to be cautious until there is more confirmation with larger and distinct studies. My favorite quote from the Apollo program is, “In God we trust, all others bring data.”

What they Said

The savers eyes focus on the larger sum and they quickly discount and disguard other data. This would be an exciting outcome, and one that I would expect to see. Of course that could be confirmation bias in and of itself, but I digress. What they found was that savers tend to instantly focus on the higher amount of money that they would have after saving rather than the smaller amount of money they would have now. The researchers said that the savers eyes go to that, and the savers appear to quickly discard other factors. They did not find evidence in these 217, 21 year olds, of the savers being better at self control or other expected parameters.

But More Caution

The full scientific paper is paywalled, but they do offer their code and data for review with the code in a public Github repository. This speaks well to them and to the potential for reproduce-ability. Still, I did not review their methodology, nor did I ask my friend to. I won’t for this blog post, nor any other, but I suspect we will be chatting about this the next time we hang out.

So What I Think

I think that this is true and likely to be validated. I am not sure about their conclusions about the other factors being irrelevant. I think the average age of the people tested, again 21, is a factor there. I do think that the minds of savers are different, and that it can be tested for. I also believe that the human mind is malleable, and that such traits can be taught like any other skill. I think it’s possible that they will develop new techniques that make it easier for folks to become savers which would benefit pretty much everyone.


  1. Hi – to me, it goes back to teaching the power of compounding, what it means, and how it can impact an amount over time. I think savers understand the power of compounding and non-savers don’t have an appreciation for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you could be on the right track there. It’s like others may know the information, but until it’s internalized, it’s just not a part of you. That has to be a factor.


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