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Are the Rich More Likely to Steal Candy from a Baby? Up to a Point.

Posted on the 29 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Are the rich more likely to steal candy from a baby? Up to a point.

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street: The epitome of the cheating upper class? Publicity still.

Are people from the upper crust more likely to lie, cheat and take things meant for others? Well, broadly speaking, yes, says a study from the University of California in Berkeley. In a report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers claimed that self-interest was more fundamental amongst the elite.

The report also, said The Guardian, but then it would,  “found a strong link between social status and greed.” The research was based on scientists’ assessment of the cars that people were driving at a cross roads in San Francisco. They found that people in the “most prestigious cars” cut people up a third of the time, whereas those in “less classy cars” did so 10 per cent of the time. They also studied 105 volunteers, and found that the higher the socioeconomic class, the more likely it was that they would endorse immoral or unethical behavior.

There are big questions about this research though, not least as to how you define class; still more important is the fact that you often get rich by behaving badly – look at Steve Jobs, says Periscope. It doesn’t mention the effects of inherited wealth or class.

“Upper and lower class individuals do not necessarily differ in terms of their capacity for unethical behaviour, but rather in terms of their default tendencies toward it,” the authors of the report said, quoted on The Guardian.

So what else did they find? When given a jar of sweets that they were told was for children elsewhere in the lab, rich people took more. The study also showed that by manipulating people into thinking they’re of a higher social status, they will then act with more greed. Rich people, said the study, tend to have more resources, which cuts them off from the real world; thus the thinking is that they behave worse.

The study’s flawed. Such news would gladden a Trotsykite’s heart, said Rowan Pelling in The Daily Telegraph. The research suggested to her that “advantaged people tend to be well educated, which helps them hugely with risk assessment.” But more importantly , there’s the “vexing issue of US researchers mean by upper class.” In the US, the emphasis is more on “money than blue blood.” Judging people by their cars wouldn’t work in Britain, “where aristocrats drive ancient Land Rovers.” In Britain, we like to think that our “toffs are decent.” The Americans didn’t explore how the upper classes “believe others will view their crimes” – they know that their caste will “close ranks and protect them.” The underclasses don’t care – it’s the middle classes who “dread the long hand of the law.”

How to get rich. There are problemsThe Washington Post blog added: “Of course, left unanswered is a key correlation/causation question: Are rich people more likely to be jerks, or are jerks more likely to get rich?”

But there are villains. As Jezebel pointed out, all this test proves is that people who like to spend money on cars “think they own the road, but it doesn’t prove that the driver of the car is wealth.” But whatever the case, “at least the existence of 1980′s John Hughes-style popular rich villain archetype has finally been validated.”

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