Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wealth Makes You a Jerk (and this is News?)

Stealing Candy from Babies (Images from Flick, by Qfamily and jantik)
As people’s wealth increases, so does their tendency to engage in unethical behaviors, according to researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Toronto, whose work was published in last week’s PNAS.  (A summary of the report can be read at Wired).

The researchers conducted seven different experiments. In the first, they found that wealthier individuals were more likely to cut off other drivers and pedestrians at busy intersections in the San Francisco Bay Area, even when controlled for time of day, gender, age, and traffic conditions.

In one experiment, participants were asked what they would do if given change for $20 if they had paid with a $10 bill. Higher SES individuals were significantly more likely to keep the change.

In another experiment, participants played the role of job contract negotiators. They were told that applicants wanted job stability and would accept lower pay in exchange for longer contracts. They were also offered bonuses for hiring people at lower salaries. Under these circumstances, wealthier participants were much less likely to be honest with applicants about job stability.

In another study, researchers let participants play a computer game of chance and then report their results. They were told that there were cash prizes for high scores. Higher SES individuals were significantly more likely to cheat or misrepresent their scores.

One of the authors was interviewed by FSRN on Monday, 3/5/12. When asked how he knew that the rich weren’t already jerks or that being a jerk is what made them rich in the first place, he said that they also created simulations in which they made people of modest incomes feel rich and even they were more likely to take candy from a bowl designated for children than were people who were not wealthy nor made to feel wealthy.

Yes, wealth apparently makes people steal candy from babies.

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