But apparently, rich people are unethical on many more levels. Maybe that’s why the richer get richer and the poor stay poor?
A new psychological study by the University of California in Berkeley shows that the richer the people, the more they tend to cheat, lie and steal compared to poorer people. “Elevated wealth status seems to make you want even more, and that increased want leads you to bend the rules or break the rules to serve your self-interest,” says Paul Piff, the lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in psychology at the university (CNN).
Over 1000 people where part of the research which included different experiments. Let’s take a simple example: “Drivers with shinier, newer, and more expensive cars were more likely to cut off other motorists at a busy four-way stop and less likely to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.” 45% of the drivers of fancy cars didn’t care about pedestrians whereas only 30% of the modest cars ignored people wanting to cross the street. Do you think rich people have a more stressful life? It’s not just about driving though. Another example from the study shows that the wealthier were also more prone (2x) to take candy from a jar which was clearly designated for children.
But why is this all happening? CNN proposes that “the independence offered by financial security may foster a sense of entitlement and a lack of concern for others, the authors suggest. On a more concrete level, affluent people may be more likely to get away with misbehavior (because they are less supervised at work, for example), and they may be more willing to take ethical risks because they have the resources to bail themselves out — both literally and figuratively — if they get caught.”
But that is not it. What the research showed repeatedly is that the unethical behaviour was often simply and only linked to greed. Greed seems to be the one big problem: “although the connection appeared to be strongest among high-status individuals, even lower-status individuals were more prone to ethical lapses if they felt that greed was good.”
The Huffington Post knows that these experiments are not the only ones connecting richness with unethical behaviour. The quote different studies which similar outcomes: “a study by Adam Waytz and Nicholas Epley, professors at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, respectively, found that people with more social connections are more likely to dehumanize others. And a report from researchers at the University of California-Berkeley released in December came to a similar conclusion: that rich people are less likely to feel empathy.”
However, wealth itself is not the problem, as Paul says nicely in the New Internationalist Magazine: “If everyone in the world was a millionaire – then so what? It’s comparative wealth and consumption that’s the issue – particularly in the light of environmental constraints.” Unfortunately, inequality is a given fact and that’s when it becomes ethically questionable. “In a world where democratic equality is seen as a virtue, by what right have they acquired this influence in the first place? If being a multi-millionaire in a world where thousands of children die of malnutrition isn’t unethical, then what is?”
With these findings – which just remind us of the fact that the 1% will do whatever it takes to stay where they are – we should be even more concerned about the fact that they control the world.
Picture by 401K, thanks!