In a series of 30 different studies, psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley have found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” Ongoing research is trying to find out what it is about wealth — or lack of it — that makes people behave they way they do. Researchers at the University have been studying income inequality.
As a part of that research, researchers organized and conducted 30 different experiments, using subjects from all over the United States. They employed both experimental and naturalistic methods of research, simulated lab experiments and experiments in the field. The results were surprising, even to those conducting the research. One of the lead researchers, Paul Piff, says “We never expected to find this” when discussing the results of these varied studies, all of which showed consistent results, across the board – the people with money were more likely to act unethically, in both real and simulated experiments.
As explained in Exploring the Psychology of Wealth — a PBS News Hour special report — upper income participants were more likely to break laws while driving, take valued goods from others, endorse unethical behavior, such as cheating at work and they were four times more likely to cheat in order to win a prize. The studies were conducted using thousands of participants from across the United States. They also demonstrated less empathy, ruder behavior and became more demanding as simulated wealth and power increased.
Watch the video: