A new study from the Department of Making You Feel Better About Yourself has concluded that there may be more to the stereotype of the rich jerk than meets the eye — in many cases, wealthy people are more prone to act like dicks than the rest of the population.
According to LiveScience, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley analyzed the driving habits of people and sorted their tendency toward unethical behavior — such as cutting people off or trying to block pedestrians from crosswalks — by the assumed economic class of the car's driver. They found that people in expensive cars tended to cut people off more often than people in junkier cars. That proves that people who care enough about cars to spend a lot of money on them think they own the road, but it doesn't prove that the driver of the car is wealthy.
Four separate lab tests conducted by the researchers showed that people who consider themselves upper class are much more likely to admit to lying, cheating, stealing, and engaging in unethical behavior at work. And the link between wealth and being an asshole held true regardless of factors like religious preference, political beliefs, and ethnicity. Another lab test began by grooming subjects to feel like they were wealthy or poor by asking subjects to compare themselves with other wealthy or poor individuals. When presented with candy they were told was for kids in a lab nearby, those made to feel rich were much more likely to literally steal candy from babies.
Researchers surmise that wealth and the power that ensues can lead individuals to be less empathetic and feel more entitled. LiveScience reports that social interaction with the wealthy tends to be characterized by detachment and disinterest from their end, because they're less aware than their lower-income counterparts of the fact that other human beings have feelings.
Most interestingly, researchers were able to use the data assembled from this study to conclude that the tendency toward crime isn't concentrated in the lower class at all. In fact, people at every rung of the ladder can be their own special flavor of jerk; researchers found no correlation between per capita income and per capita property crimes or violent crime.
All this presents a bit of a chicken-or-egg question. Does wealth make people act unethically or do unethical people tend to be more successful? Whatever the case, at least the existence of 1980's John Hughes-style popular rich villain archetype has finally been validated.
Rich People More Likely to Lie, Cheat, Study Suggests [Live Science]