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.