If you have lots of money, chances are that you are more predisposed to a sense of entitlement, narcissism, cheating, and propelling your success at the detriment of others. The phenomenon has been loosely dubbed by The Guardian’s Anne Manne as “the asshole effect.” This is just another ill created by America’s rampant wealth disparity problem that’s fostered by an unregulated capitalist system and financial sector.
Paul Piff is an American psychologist who revealed some compelling research during his TEDTalk this past December. Piff and fellow researchers at the University of California Berkeley conducted an experiment where random students played a rigged game of Monopoly. One player started with more money and received a doubled salary when passing “Go,” among other privileges. This player was the rich player; the other was the poor player.
What the experiment found was that the rich player continually became more belligerent, aggressive, rude, and less compassionate of the poor player’s plight. They also developed a tendency to be insufferably boastful about their wealth to the poor player. Piff’s hypothesis that wealth makes people mean received validation in a controlled, created experiment. The group then brought their research to the real world.
Drivers in California are supposed to yield to pedestrians waiting to tread a crosswalk. Based on the expensiveness of the oncoming car, Piff and his team were able to determine how wealth created entitlement and fostered a disregard for consequences [read: affluenza]. Drivers of less expensive cars typically yielded and allowed the pedestrian to cross. Drivers of more expensive vehicles, however, failed to yield and completely disregarded the law.
Rich people were also less likely to be charitable and help strangers. According to Piff, poor people were 44 percent more likely to help a stranger in need than a rich person. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans donated 1.3 percent of their income to charity. People in the bottom 20 percent donated 3.2 percent of their income.
Although there are some wealthy people who are highly involved in charities, the fact is that the occurrence is rare among rich people.
“The more severe inequality becomes, the more entitled people may feel and less likely to share resources they become,” said Piff. “The wealthier [that] segments of society become then, the more vulnerable communities may be to selfish tendencies and the less charity the least among us can expect.”
Of course, these findings aren’t absolute and not all rich people are jerks. However, the research is very telling of an all too common phenomenon among America’s wealthy. And that phenomenon is dictated by the creed of “I’m rich and don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. It’s my world and you’re all just here. I’m right, and you’re wrong.”
Here’s a video of Piff’s TEDTalk:
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.