Upper-class people are more likely to engage in a whole range of unethical behaviors, say psychologists, who have carried out the experiments to prove it.
They’re more likely to break the law while driving, make unethical decisions, and take valued goods from others. The list goes on: they’ll lie in a negotiation, cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work.
“Our studies suggest that more positive attitudes toward greed and the pursuit of self-interest among upper-class individuals, in part, drive their tendencies toward increased unethical behavior,” says UC Berkeley’s Paul Piff.
“The relative privilege and security enjoyed by upper-class individuals give rise to independence from others and a prioritization of the self and one’s own welfare over the welfare of others – what we call ‘greed’.”
In the most jaw-dropping experiment, the team manipulated participants into temporarily feeling either higher or lower in social class.
At the end of the study, the participants were handed a jar of individually wrapped candies and told they could take some – but that they were really supposed to be for children in a nearby lab.
And guess what? Those that felt higher in social class took twice as much candy from the children than those who felt lower in class.
“Across all seven studies, the general pattern we find is that as a person’s social class increases, his or her tendency to behave unethically also increases,” says Piff.
Ammunition for the Occupy movement…