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Forum Post: Wealthy, motivated by greed, are more likely to cheat

Posted 2 years ago on March 1, 2012, 1:40 p.m. EST by nucleus (3291)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The rich really are different from the rest of us, scientists have found — they are more apt to commit unethical acts because they are more motivated by greed.

People driving expensive cars were more likely than other motorists to cut off drivers and pedestrians at a four-way-stop intersection in the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley researchers observed. Those findings led to a series of experiments that revealed that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back.

Because rich people have more financial resources, they're less dependent on social bonds for survival, the Berkeley researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, their self-interest reigns and they have fewer qualms about breaking the rules.

"If you occupy a more insular world, you're less likely to be sensitive to the needs of others," said study lead author Paul Piff, who is studying for a doctorate in psychology.

But before those in the so-called 99% start feeling ethically superior, consider this: Piff and his colleagues also discovered that anyone's ethical standards could be prone to slip if they suddenly won the lottery and joined the top 1%.

"There is a strong notion that when people don't have much, they're really looking out for themselves and they might act unethically," said Scott Wiltermuth, who researches social status at USC's Marshall School of Business and wasn't involved in the study. "But actually, it's the upper-class people that are less likely to see that people around them need help — and therefore act unethically."

In earlier studies, Piff documented that wealthy people were less likely to act generously than relatively impoverished people. With this research, he hoped to find out whether wealthy people would also prioritize self-interest if it meant breaking the rules.

The driving experiments offered a way to test the hypothesis "naturalistically," he said. Trained observers hid near a downtown Berkeley intersection and noted the makes, model years and conditions of bypassing cars. Then they recorded whether drivers waited their turn.

It turned out that people behind the wheels of the priciest cars were four times as likely as drivers of the least expensive cars to enter the intersection when they didn't have the right of way. The discrepancy was even greater when it came to a pedestrian trying to exercise a right of way.

There is a significant correlation between the price of a car and the social class of its driver, Piff said. Still, how fancy a car looks isn't a perfect indicator of wealth.

So back in the laboratory, Piff and his colleagues conducted five more tests to measure unethical behavior — and to connect that behavior to underlying attitudes toward greed.

For instance, the team used a standard questionnaire to get college students to assess their own socioeconomic status and asked how likely subjects were to behave unethically in eight different scenarios.

In one of the quandaries, students were asked to imagine that they bought coffee and a muffin with a $10 bill but were handed change for a $20. Would they keep the money?

In another hypothetical scenario, students realized their professor made a mistake in grading an exam and gave them an A instead of the B they deserved. Would they ask for a grade change?

The patterns from the road held true in the lab — those most willing to engage in unethical behavior were the ones with the highest social status.

One possible explanation was that wealthy people are simply more willing to acknowledge their selfish side. But that wasn't the issue here. When test subjects of any status were asked to imagine themselves at a high social rank, they helped themselves to more candies from a jar they were told was meant for children in another lab.

Another experiment recruited people from Craigslist to play a "game of chance" that the researchers had rigged. People who reported higher social class were more likely to have favorable attitudes toward greed — and were more likely to cheat at the game.

"The patterns were just so consistent," Piff said. "It was very, very compelling."

Piff, who is writing a paper about attitudes toward the Occupy movement, said that his team had been accused of waging class warfare from time to time.

"Berkeley has a certain reputation, so yeah, we get that," he said.

But rather than vilify the wealthy, Piff said, he hopes his work leads to policies that help bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Acts as simple as watching a movie about childhood poverty seem to encourage people of all classes to help others in need, he said.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-0228-greed-20120228,0,5965885.story

69 Comments

69 Comments


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[-] 12 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

We live in a society that values materialism over anything else, so it makes sense that those with material "success" (generally speaking, not all), have a sense of hubris and entitlement. Funny how they talk about the poor being "entitled" when, in fact, it is they who have taken more than their fair share of cookies from the cookie jar.

[-] 2 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 2 years ago

yea... no kidding beautifulw ... it's almost always the privileged that feel entitled ... the impoverished often wrongly blame themselves... the silver spoon fed one's always want more... at any cost....

[+] -4 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

do you know anyone that aspires to be poor? most people who are rich have achieved it through their own hard world fueled by their drive and ambition.

[-] 8 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

By saying that you are saying that poor people are poor because they don't have drive and ambition. That is ridiculous and callous and uninformed. Half of all jobs in the U.S. right now pay less than $26,000 per year. No matter how hard those millions of people work, no matter how driven, the opportunities do not exist.

[-] 2 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

Right on beautifulworld. 1% of the population holds 50% of the wealth and 90% of that it INHERITED. Bootstraps my ass. These people don't get to lecture us on hard work.

[-] -3 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

it's nothing of the kind, stay in school, learn a trade, aspire for more. start small, work more than everyone around you, save, be alert to any opportunities to advance yourself. there are no bad jobs but there are bad attitudes.

[-] 7 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

I just do not agree with you at all. To say that people in low paying jobs do not work hard shows a lack of compassion and empathy. And, why don't you get it, that there is not a lot of opportunity out there? The one-half of jobs that pay less than $26,000 are going to exist regardless of whether or not every American is capable of doing more. Those are the jobs businesses are offering and that they want filled.

[-] 1 points by flip (6816) 2 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: By "not very much" in speaker’s fees, Romney meant more than $374,000 in one year. And it turned out Romney’s tax rate was actually 13.9 percent. David Cay Johnston, your response?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, you know, let’s deal with the speeches first. His average fee per speech was more than the total income of—I think it’s 60 percent of American households. That’s the first thing to keep in mind, what he calls a little money. And to him, it is a little bit of money.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

Insanity. I wouldn't pay five cents to listen to a Romney speech.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

Skylar is missing the point: You're missing the point. We have a hijacked system wherein wealth is concentrated to the point of absurdity. Rich 1% have half the wealth. And 90% of that is INHERITED. So the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" crap they're spewing is .... A whole lotta horse shit.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

Great point.

[-] -1 points by tomahawk99 (-26) 2 years ago

starting class warfare isn't going to help. most people start life poor and work their way up with hard work and studying. not everyone will be rich, especially if they don't have the drive. that's just the way it is. look at immigrants some, not all, have the drive make the sacrifice and do well. that blows the left's 'can't succeed in America' rubbish. on the other hand business's need to stop moving jobs overseas and the government needs to give them incentives to stay here.

[-] -1 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

i did not say that they did not work hard. if what you do is not goiing to lead to a better paying job. learn a marketable skill. learn to fix cars,...people are holding to theirs , not buying new ones.

[-] 2 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

You're missing the point. We have a hijacked system wherein wealth is concentrated to the point of absurdity. Rich 1% have half the wealth. And 90% of that is INHERITED. So the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" crap they're spewing is .... A whole lotta horse shit.

[-] -1 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

you one of the " life is not fair" whiners.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

And you are one of the lamest paid trolls on this forum. I can't believe they pay you. Hard to find good help in paid troll industry I suppose.

[-] -1 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

sorry dear, no one pays me to be on this site. i do it for the amusement value.

[+] -5 points by DKAtoday (28427) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

If you mean that 90% being inherited from out of our non-dead hands and our pockets.

Well then I believe you are spot on.

[-] 2 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

No, it's 90% inherited. 90% of that wealth held by top 1% came to them from their parents / grandparents. These were not bootstraps people. This is the reason they pushed so hard on this "death tax" propaganda against taxing the legacy concentrated fortunes. They made it sound like the government was going after the little guy. The rich cleverly got the little guys to appropriate their cause.

Black is white and white is black. We're are definitely down the rabbit hole.

[+] -4 points by DKAtoday (28427) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Well then. Perhaps the IRS overlooked some inheritance taxes.

Problem solved folks. You can all go home now. The Budget has not been balanced yet but we no longer have a National debt. There seems to be a momentary excess. Huh.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

There's plenty of wealth in this country. It's just being hoarded.

[+] -5 points by DKAtoday (28427) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Exactly so. Get a living wage happening and watch this country come to life.

[-] -2 points by HarryPairatestes2 (380) from Barrow, AK 2 years ago

Funny how you only respond to one point of Skylar's post (work more than everyone around you) and ignore the other points. Typical..

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

What are you talking about? You want me to address learning a trade, aspiration, start small, work more than everyone around you. Huh? It's the same b.s. shaming poor people for their lack of "success" because they are lazy. You guys are the typical ones with your reactionary selfish worldview.

[-] -1 points by HarryPairatestes2 (380) from Barrow, AK 2 years ago

No one mentioned lazy except you.

So what does prevent a poor person in the U.S. from finishing school, learning a trade, starting small and working up the ladder of success, taking on extra work so promotions come quickly, etc.?

[-] 1 points by JDub (218) 2 years ago

many many things. Life happens. Medical Happens, family happens. Gambles don't pay off. The fact that for some to be rich, many have to be poor. Need I go on?

[+] -4 points by DKAtoday (28427) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

You know a lot of these guy's if they do have money? It would not surprise me one little bit to find that they are where they are not because of what they know but because of Who they know and who they'll blow. Back riders of one stripe or another. If their success depends on anyone's output it will be their subordinate who gets things done.

[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (20955) 2 years ago

So true.

[+] -4 points by DKAtoday (28427) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

So truly sad.

[-] 0 points by HarryPairatestes2 (380) from Barrow, AK 2 years ago

From your bitterness I believe you are not one of the people who has been successful in their career.

[+] -5 points by DKAtoday (28427) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Oh you have no idea. I was paid below minimum wage to weld freight cars using a Bic lighter. They did let me sleep on the tracks though. So it did have some perks.

[-] 2 points by LetsGetReal (1420) from Grants, NM 2 years ago

That is the myth anyway. Do you have any facts to support this?

[-] 1 points by gestopomillyy (1695) 2 years ago

no its because they inherited . there are very very few rich people that got that way by working for it. you cannot name me one rich guy today who did not start out at the very very least in an affluent childhood.

[-] 2 points by factsrfun (7083) from Phoenix, AZ 2 years ago

"Trust Fund" unlike "middle class" is something everybody knows, they either have it or they don't....

[-] 2 points by factsrfun (7083) from Phoenix, AZ 2 years ago

If you take a look at all those who hold/have recieved a trust fund and all those who have not it pretty splits folks up, they date/marry/live within those groups.

[-] 0 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

How about bill clinton and george soros , two who started with not much of anything.

[-] 1 points by gestopomillyy (1695) 2 years ago

clinton grew up the son of a car dealership owner who later owned a 400 acre farm he grew up affluent. yes you managed to find one..

[-] -1 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

as for soros, as s child he was a nazi enabler and became one of the wealthiest people in the world.

[-] -2 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

clinton did not grow up with affluence. he made his millions after he left the white house.

[-] 1 points by gestopomillyy (1695) 2 years ago

he came from affluent childhood.. he wasnt just a regular person , the child of low paid parents.. or you think any o person can go out an buy a 400 acre farm? you said that there are rich people that came from nothing.. thats not nothing. in arkansas,, a shotgun house and a truck held together with twine and duck tape is coming from nothing

[-] 0 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

he did not have an affluent childhood. what do you have to say about soros?

[-] 1 points by gestopomillyy (1695) 2 years ago

i cant believe that you think thats not affluent his mother married the guy when he was 5. he did not struggle . i said about soros.. ok you found one

[-] 0 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

clinton did not grow up in affluence.

[-] 1 points by gestopomillyy (1695) 2 years ago

what was it then? are you calling that kinda lifestyle middleclass? if you are thats laughable

[-] 0 points by skylar (-441) 2 years ago

other wealthy people that did not grow up in affluence,...........michaels moore, oprah winfrey, lebron james, springsteen.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 2 years ago

Ha! 1% of the population holds 50% of the wealth and 90% of that it INHERITED. Bootstraps my ass.

[-] 3 points by systemicdisorder (15) from New York, NY 2 years ago

An interesting report, but not surprising. We live in a capitalist system that is designed to reward greed, and the most greedy tend to be more asocial. Sure, greed is a common human characteristic, but so is cooperation. If we lived in an economic system that rewarded cooperation, there would be less opportunity for greed to distort social outcomes.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

So why are we not more cooperative and less greedy?

Could be that prioritized by dominance the human cooperative characteristic is pretty far below self interest with some goodies in between like avarice, lust, and fear.

[-] 1 points by systemicdisorder (15) from New York, NY 2 years ago

No, cooperation is at least as prominent in the overall set of human characteristic traits as greed. If we had a rational system based on cooperative association(s) then cooperation would be rewarded, and that portion of the human character would be dominant. In capitalism, it's a war of all against all and in which greed is rewarded far beyond cooperation. Those whose greed puts them on top want to keep themselves on top, so it should be no surprise that greed is celebrated.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

Which company is apt to be more successful, the company that spends it's resources suing it's competitors for patent infringement or licenses them and enjoys the royalties without the risk of capital and manufacturing liability?

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (9780) 2 years ago

It would really be interesting if they could factor in these results with narcissistic personality disorder. Our competetive, status conscious society produces a high rate of this disorder when compared to other cultures.

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (7083) from Phoenix, AZ 2 years ago

Have you seen the info about psychopaths in society? Here are some thoughts from Wikipedia:

Legal Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia Joel Bakan describes the modern corporate entity as 'an institutional psychopath' and a 'psychopathic creature.' In the documentary The Corporation, Bakan claims that corporations, when considered as natural living persons, exhibit the traits of antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy. Also in the film, Robert Monks, a former Republican Party candidate for Senate from Maine, says: The corporation is an externalizing machine (moving its operating costs to external organizations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. —[3]

And some links:

http://www.thehiddenevil.com/psychopathy.asp

http://psychopathyandsociopathy.blogspot.com/2011/07/psychopathy-and-narcissism-and-their.html

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

The results may have more to do with power than with wealth.

The elite attitude that sometimes accompanies power could make folks believe that they are above the rules. If you are friends with a cop that can fix tickets you might be less careful about minding that no-parking sign.

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

Money is power.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

But not all power comes from money.

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

Show us power without money.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

If you are friends with a cop that can fix tickets you might be less careful about minding that no-parking sign

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

You call that power? LOL

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

The original post reported on a survey indicating that rich folks were more likely to violate traffic laws. A cop fixing tickets seems spot-on.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

How about Michelle Obama. Most powerful non-elected-to-anything person on the planet. Her position has nothing to do with money, just an accident of marriage.

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

And $750 million in campaign contributions that got her president elected.

Try again.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

Her powerful position has little to do with her personal wealth.

Other people with tremendous power and little money:

Dr. Martin Luther King Gandhi Lincoln Nixon Bob Dole

Many other examples can be found without much time searching.

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

Despite the fact that MO would not be where she is without massive corporate contributions to BO, she remains powerless.

Lincoln, Nixon, and Dole would never have been elected without massive funding. As a historical note Lincoln was assassinated for his financial positions.

MLK and Gandhi are two valid and pertinent examples. OWS has neither.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

How about Mandella, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Franco all had little personal wealth.

Does OWS have any leaders?

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

It's not about personal wealth, it's about who is putting up the money to front you. Wake up.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

Who put up the money to front Mao?

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

Mao's father was wealthy, which enabled Mao to go to college, among other things. This was atypical for the vast majority of Chinese. And to assume that Mao did not receive financial support from various interests is ignorant.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

Can we live without the insults?

[+] -4 points by Carlitini99 (-167) 2 years ago

. recent colleges grad living at home, get a job and buy a bmw. or someone who values pricey cars, leases one or lives beyond his means to get one. i don't think he is testing rich versus non rich he's is testing a..hole versus non-a..hole How does explain the illegals who come here and expect hand outs? and prius drivers they are the worse idiots on the road.