I’m a big proponent of the idea that basic human nature is blind to pretty much all outside circumstances. I’m not really a philosophy scholar, so there’s probably an actual theory that states this, but I’ll call it the “sibling theory.” As in, no matter the actual parameters of any situation, people will want whatever other people around them receive – whether that would be a material good, a service, or something immeasurable, like love or praise. It’s the same as when you were a little kid and your brother or sister got a treat – you aren’t probably sure why they earned that treat – only that they got it, and you didn’t.
Case in point: I’m standing in line at the bank this afternoon to make a $30 deposit. Nothing fancy. One check, and a two-second process. I’m standing behind four or five people, who look like they have serious business to conduct with the lone teller that is manning the branch. (For instance, the man that occupied the window at this point didn’t really understand the phrase “I can’t do this at this branch.”) A kindly woman must have saw me holding one check and a deposit slip, so she walked up to me and kindly offered to take the check and deposit it herself, without me having to wait in the line. That was very nice. But the woman in front of me saw this happen, and proceeded to pull out a humongous zip-lock bag of bills and change. Of course, the lady couldn’t take this, because a check is much easier to just pop in a box and deposit at the end of the day than $3,000 in random bills and change. She didn’t like the fact that I got to leave before she did.
I’m not saying her reaction was wrong – I wouldn’t be pleased about standing in line for a while. But she had to understand that she wasn’t going to be able to deposit that cash with that woman (and frankly, I wouldn’t really trust having that much money just floating around unsecured). Just an example of that “sibling theory” that I notice, almost all the time.