It’s clear what a big deal mental burden is to people when you consider how much people are willing to pay for peace of mind. The size of the global insurance industry is the most obvious example, but most of our basic transactions also involve reducing or transferring mental load.

When you pay for a service, you’re offloading not just the physical burden but the mental burden of having to do something you either can’t or don’t want to do onto someone else. How much of a premium are you willing to pay for quality work? That premium is a way of paying for peace of mind—some insurance that the job will be done right and you won’t have to worry about it. Same goes for goods: by shelling out more for the fancier, better-built gadget rather than buying the cheap one, you’re hoping to defer the mental burden of having to replace it when it breaks. (I’ll get into the customer service, management, and user experience design implications in a future post.)

In other words, we assign great value to mental relief and peace of mind. It’s possible for two people of different socioeconomic status to start out with the same level of mental burden, but the person with the money is more able to pay to offload that burden. A lightened mental load means this person can devote more resources toward innovation and work. In reality, though, people with privilege are already at an advantage when it comes to mental burden, and wealth inequality just reinforces and amplifies those inequities.

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