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Each week on Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, explore different aspects of human behavior and the brain.

The Economics of Our Relationships

What is the value of our relationships? As it turns out, the way we answer that question defines the relationship itself.

In this episode of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke talk about the various ways we understand the economics of the relationships in our lives, and why the value of community should never be underestimated.

We operate within the parameters of about three major relational structures. One is familial, those relationships we have where we do things for people we love with no expectations that we will be "paid back" for our services.

On the extreme opposite of that spectrum are strangers. The relationships we have with strangers, like the clerk at Forever 21, have specific boundaries surrounding economic exchange. You can't really take a purse from the store and bring back lasagna the next day as payment: money for commodity.

The third category is pretty much all other relationships we have in our lives, neighbors and community.  Economic exchanges within this arena are nebulous, yet very important. When we start treating people we've treated as community members like strangers, things get weird, people get offended, and often the relationship is strained.

So why is it important to be aware of the way economic exchanges function in our relationships? 

One reason is because, identifying different capital allows us a lot more economic freedom. For example, you may dog-sit for your neighbor's yorkie, and your neighbor in turn plays the drums at your benefit concert. The market value of both of those services is far greater than either party might want to pay in cash, but in the end it evens out.

When we fail to recognize the value of the community element in other relationships, we may change the nature of that relationship and suffer consequences farther down the line.

The example Markman uses in the podcast refers to a college football organization choosing to boost the price of once-discounted tickets it had offered to faculty and staff.

In the short term, the football organization will get more money for the tickets, but changing the fundamental nature of the relationship economically could mean unforeseen repercussions down the line, because faculty and staff may no longer feel they are part of the community with the football organization.

In short, all these relationships are really important. Money is definitely not everything!

Rebecca McInroy is an award-winning show creator, host, and executive producer for KUT, KUTX, and KUT.ORG.
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