Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This Just In - Rich People Lie & Cheat

Rich people are more likely to lie and cheat than ordinary stiffs like you.  A study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences began when a PhD candidate, Paul Piff, wanted to explore whether higher social class was linked to higher ideals.

The answer Piff found after conducting seven different experiments is: no. The pursuit of self-interest is a “fundamental motive among society’s elite, and the increased want associated with greater wealth and status can promote wrongdoing,” Piff and his colleagues wrote yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The “upper class,” as defined by the study, were more likely to break the law while driving, take candy from children, lie in negotiation, cheat to raise their odds of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work, the research found. The solution, Piff said, is to find a way to increase empathy among wealthier people.

“It’s not that the rich are innately bad, but as you rise in the ranks -- whether as a person or a nonhuman primate -- you become more self-focused,” Piff said.

Bah, Humbug!


Anonymous said...

I think it's more likely they're rich because they lie and cheat than that they lie and cheat because they're rich.

The Mound of Sound said...

In my litigation years I had several cases involving very wealthy people who had dabbled in misappropriation or deceptive dealings. Some were true sociopaths, a mental defect that actually facilitated their rise to wealth. They perceived right and wrong just not in the context of themselves. Ordinary rules and societal norms applied to them only to the extent and duration of their utility to them. And these were pillars of the community, real front page names.

crf said...

I just read the news article, not the paper. It seems that the subjects were probably Americans found by the experimenters online or at university.

There are a lot of other countries with rich people, where maybe the same effect wouldn't be seen.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not sure, Chris. I've certainly seen it first-hand in Vancouver. And an item in today's Guardian suggests the Brits are familiar with it also.

The Guardian piece posited this as a manifestation of the isolation in highly stratified societies. The privileged majority, interacting only among themselves, see themselves and their ethics far differently than the masses. Perceptions of right and wrong become acceptably right or inacceptably wrong, blurring ethical lines.