Studies on how wealth might engender unseemly behaviour

A friend shared a study by Berkeley’s psychology department on how wealth or a feeling of being wealthy can make people exhibit less empathetic behaviour.

The video explains the research in a very accessible and easy-to-understand manner.

In their paper, the researchers say:

“We reason that increased resources and independence from others cause people to prioritize self-interest over others’welfare and perceive greed as positive and beneficial, which in turn gives rise to increased unethical behavior”

I suppose that’s a pretty good explanation of the behaviour.

If you’re wealthy and don’t think you will need another person’s help some day, you don’t need to be very helpful to people.

On the other hand, if you’re not wealthy and feel insecure about your own future, you might feel compelled to try and be nice to people around you since you might need their help one day.

Here is the full paper:
http://redaccion.nexos.com.mx/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/1118373109.full_.pdf

I found a similar conclusion at the end of a related study by researchers at the University of Minnesota (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.186.5454&rep=rep1&type=pdf) which a friend of mine shared with me:

“The self-sufficient pattern helps explain why people view money as both the greatest good and evil. As countries and cultures developed, money may have allowed people to acquire
goods and services that enabled the pursuit of cherished goals, which in turn diminished reliance on friends and family. In this way, money enhanced individualism but diminished communal motivations, an effect that is still apparent in people’s responses to money today.”

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One thought on “Studies on how wealth might engender unseemly behaviour

  1. Cohan-

    This article is so true! I was amazed to find a scientific analysis for a seemingly innocuous human trait. Time and again, such behavior never ceases to amaze me, now I know there is an underlying human psychosis at work!

    Nice article!

    Regards,
    Naveen

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