Money Turns People Into Jerks, Says Science

Running stop signs. Taking candy from children. Cheating at games. If you’re wealthy, chances are, you’re more likely to do all three.

UC Berkeley social psychologist Paul Piff has run 30 studies on thousands of people around the United States. And time and time again, he finds that the wealthiest participants tend to act the most deplorably.

As this piece from PBS NewsHour explains, Piff has discovered findings like:

  • Drivers of expensive cars were three to four times more likely to break the law, and not stop in a pedestrian intersection.
  • Given the opportunity, wealthier participants took twice as much candy from children as poorer participants.
  • The wealthy cheated four times as often at dice games when money was on the line--a $50 voucher.

Your first reaction might be like my own. Of course the wealthy broke the rules and played aggressively--that’s how and why they became wealthy! Those are, in essence, skills that have manifested in success. And no doubt, some of the most innovative companies in the world (including basically every .com to date) shoot first and ask questions later.

But Piff’s most interesting study shows money’s power to corrupt. Using a rigged Monopoly game, Piff pits two subjects head-to-head. A coin toss determines which subject will be inherently wealthier than the other, getting more money to start, more money when they cross Go, and rolling with two dice rather than one.

At the end of the game, the wealthier subjects inevitably win. But strangely, when asked, even knowing that they were given every advantage in the game by nothing more than chance, they reported that they deserved to win. Even in the microcosm of Monopoly, wealth bred entitlement.

Just remember, my more prosperous companions: Maybe you really do deserve every penny you own, and maybe you don’t. But either way, wealth is merely a euphemism for hoarding.

[Hat tip: The Dish]

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8 Comments

  • ScottDWitt

    ( Expanding on Zoran's comment )

    Don't confuse correlation with causation.
    Wealthy individuals often get rich because they consistently grab more, and they're willing to cut more corners, than the average Joe. (The data in this article illustrates this behavior pattern.)  

    Having lots of money doesn't lead you to act this way. 
    Instead, acting this way is how you end up with more money. 

    ~Tech Heretic

  • Mark Wilson

    Read the article--that was my original conclusion, but another study disproves it.

  • Brian Lunde

    One word explains the results: humility. Great wealth (just like great political power, or great fame) greatly amplifies human arrogance, and one offspring of arrogance is the belief that the rules (like stop signs) don't apply to you. Because a humble person does not see herself as better than other people, she is much more likely to respect the rules, by which she is respecting others. This is why Jesus said "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." It is exceedingly difficult--but not impossible--to be both rich and humble.

  • dwsNY

    FoxNews Special Report: Conclusive Proof Science Is A Liberal Communist Fascist Plot To Destroy Our Job Creators - Corrupt "Researcher" Claims Rich People May Be More Entitled Than People On Entitlements!

  • Timothy Obisesan

    money creates a sense of power, and once humans have that power sometimes it maybe misused if your not disciplined or grounded in great morals.

  • MedfordMan

    Yeah, but science gives us an opportunity to not only vindicate your anecdotal experience, but to QUANTIFY the degree of their douche-baggery.