Social Class and Unethical Bahavior
Since the economic crash of 2008, the media has been filled with rhetoric of disdain for the top 1%.
White collar crime is on everyone’s minds including those at the Justice Department.
It’s easy to stereotype the upper class as being greedy and dishonest. But does economic status really affect peoples ethics?
A new study says yes.
Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley conducted a series of experiments that suggests that people of a higher social class may indeed partake in more unethical behavior.
In two experiments, researchers investigated the relationship between car type and driver behavior. The findings showed that drivers with more expensive cars were more likely to participate in behaviors such as cutting off other drivers, and not yielding for pedestrians.
45% of people driving these expensive cars ignored a pedestrian, compared to 30% of people driving more modest vehicles.
Another experiment showed that college students who saw themselves as being from an upper-class background showed more potential to cheat on exams.
“We’re not saying you should distrust the rich, or the rich are corrupt,” says Paul Piff, the lead author who conducted the study. “Instead, this highlights the disparities in social environments — that different positions occupied give rise to almost natural tendencies and divergent social values.”
If these findings prove valid over time, might they explain what many see as corruption onWall Street?
If so, how might we possibly hope to prevent it?