February 27, 2012
A recent study out of UC Berkeley describes seven experiments by psychologists that examined the behavior of wealthy people compared to those in lower socioeconmic positions. The study concluded that wealthier people are more likely to lie, cheat, and behave unethically then those who aren’t wealthy.
One of the experiments looked at driver behavior and concluded that those with newer and more expensive cars were less likely to stop for pedestrians and more likely to cut off other cars. If only they were also tracking how many were simultaneously using their cell phone, this might rank as my favorite study of all time.
One of the seven experiments looked at whether participants would, in the role of a potential employer, lie by not revealing information in a salary negotiation. The wealthy were far more likely to lie, misrepresent, or withhold the information.
The study draws some conclusions about why the wealthy may be more willing to lie and cheat and states that part of the reason may be “their more favorable attitudes towards greed.”
For a shorter news account of the study see: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/27/health/rich-more-unethical/index.html
For the study itself see: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/21/1118373109.abstract?sid=9d30c51d-0a9a-4dcf-b6e0-fc830405add8
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