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‘PBS NewsHour’: ‘Money on the Mind’

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Posted on Dec 23, 2013

As Truthdig reported before, a UC Berkeley study published earlier in 2013 showed links between wealth and selfish, anti-social behavior. The damning results are worth repeating. Compared with their poorer counterparts, wealthier participants consistently took more candy from children, cheated at games for petty cash prizes, lied during negotiations, stole at work and endorsed unethical behavior.

Lead researcher Paul Piff said the findings across 30 studies on thousands of people across the U.S. didn’t apply just to people who were wealthy in real life. Those who were made to feel wealthy in laboratory games began to behave in accord with the findings too.

“We found consistently with people who were the rich players that they actually started to become in their behavior as if they were like rich people in real life,” Piff told “PBS NewsHour.” “They were more likely to eat from a bowl of pretzels that was positioned off to the side. They ate with their mouths full, so they were a little ruder in their behavior to the other person.” The effect worked in the other direction too. “If I take someone who’s rich and make them feel psychologically a little less well off, they become way more generous, way more charitable, way more likely to offer help to another person.”

And in those scenarios, the “rich” subjects routinely showed a lack of insight into the conditions that enabled their success. “You, like a real rich person, start to attribute success to your own individual skills and talents,” Piff continued. “And you become less attuned to all of the other things that contributed to you being in the position you’re in.”

Furthermore, the results did not break down along political battle lines. “Our findings apply to both liberals and conservatives. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re wealthy, you’re more likely to show these patterns of results.”

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