Recently there’s been some press around a set of studies at the University of California, Berkeley, that examined behaviour and motivation among the upper class – people with higher education, important-sounding careers, and a whole lot of do-re-mi. Their conclusion? These men and women tend to be less ethical and compassionate than those without as much money and prestige.
Among their wacky findings, people in a higher socioeconomic class were less likely to stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. And they were more likely to help themselves to candy that’s meant for children. Come on, it’s for children!
We already know from other studies that wealthy people are less generous to charities, and more likely to cheat for cash. The researchers theorize that many upper-class folks don’t think greed is such a bad thing, compared to poorer, less educated people.
Social psychologist Paul Piff, at the University of California, Berkeley, led the research and says there were clear patterns after studying thousands of individuals. (You can listen here to his recent interview on CBC Radio.) “The wealthier you are, and the more status in society you have, the more likely you are to see yourself as deserving of good things in life,” he explains in the interview. “You see yourself as more entitled to better outcomes.”
But the good news is, you can be rich and keep your moral code. Just look at my hero Warren Buffett, who earns enough money to swim in, but instead gives most of it away to good causes.
I can’t speak for his demographic, for obvious reasons. But I’d like to think that if my own personal net worth were suddenly to rise several notches, I’d still stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. And I’d never, ever steal candy from a baby.