The old adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” comes to mind when pondering a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that the rich and privileged are more prone to behave unethically—-to lie, cheat and even take candy from a child—and to be more selfish drivers than those who are less well off.
In one aspect of the multifaceted study, 129 undergraduates, both wealthy and poorer students, were given a jar of individually wrapped candy. They were told that the candy was meant for some children, but that they could help themselves if they wanted any. The more well-off undergraduates felt freer to take more candy than lower income participants, the study found. From ABC News:
Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley analyzed a person’s rank in society (measured by wealth, occupational prestige and education) and found that those who were richer were more likely to cheat, lie and break the law than those who were poorer.
“We found that it is much more prevalent for people in the higher ranks of society to see greed and self-interest … as good pursuits,” said Paul Piff, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate at Berkeley. “This resonates with a lot of current events these days.”
In the first of two studies, researchers found that those who drove more expensive cars (an admittedly questionable indicator of economic worth) were more likely to cut off other cars and pedestrians at a busy San Francisco four-way intersection than those who drove older, less-expensive vehicles.
In other experiments, wealthier study participants were more likely to admit they would behave unethically in a variety of situations and lie during negotiations. In another, researchers found wealthier people were more likely to cheat in an online game to win a $50 prize.
Greed is a “robust” determinant of unethical behavior, according to the study.
“This has some pretty clear implications,” said Piff. “Inequality is very much on Americans’ minds, and the potential effects of severe inequality on individual levels of behavior are major.”
Large sums of money may give people greater feelings of entitlement, causing those people to be the most averse to wealth distribution, Piff continued. Poorer people may be less likely to cheat, because they are more dependent on their community at large, he said. In other words, they don’t want to rock the boat.
Interesting. A right-winger would throw it back at you that poorer neighborhoods are where the majority of crimes are committed, but police are seldom brought in on matters of white collar crimes, are they? Stats compiling the actual damages of both types of crimes would be telling, but it seems clear enough already that the oligarchy in America would have a more out-sized influence than the car thief, pick-pocket or even a small army of welfare cheats. Compare even a murderer to Bernie Maddof and that much still seems obvious.
“People in power who are more inclined to behave unethically in the service of gains and self-interest can have great effects on society as a whole,” said Piff.
And it’s difficult to say whether richer people get to the top because of their unethical behavior or whether wealth causes people to become this way. “It seems like a vicious cycle,” he said.
Spoken like a scientist. Here’s the take-away:
Piff said he hoped to further his research by figuring out ways to curb these patterns of behavior among wealthier individuals.
Oh shit! He said “it.” The thing that you never, ever hear discussed, because it’s forbidden to question the motives and behaviors of the “job creators” in American society. The cat is out of the bag. We’ve got a diagnosis. Now what?
Personally, I can’t WAIT until this one bubbles up as a topic for Fox News talkers to become irate about. This could get really good (and funny) if this study and Paul Piff’s lightly blunt comments get some traction in the news cycle. I’d love to know what Eric Bolling would make of this study, wouldn’t you? (Not because I can about what he thinks, just for the yucks).
“What it comes down to, really, is that money creates more of a self-focus, which may account for larger feelings of entitlement,” said Piff. “We hope to further study how we can curb these patterns and how that will affect our social environment.”