You’ve probably heard the saying ‘money is the root of all evil’, although the actual saying goes ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’.
Either way, it’s something of a dig at rich folk. It’s not like we don’t already know Markus Jooste is a terrible person, for example, but why did he think he would get away with his antics?
If you were to study how wealth, power and privilege affect behaviour, like Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley has for a decade, you would have plenty of ammunition to use against them.
He used a series of innovative experiments to find out about the corrupting power of wealth, and his studies were startling, to say the least.
Via the Washington Post, here are some of the standouts:
In one experiment, the researchers stationed themselves at a busy intersection with four-way stop signs and tracked the model of every car whose driver cut off others instead of waiting their turn. People driving expensive cars — like a brand-new Mercedes — were four times more likely to ignore right-of-way laws than those in cheap cars like an old beat-up Honda.
Drive around Cape Town and track the use and non-use of indicators (taxis aside), and you might find something similar.
As for zebra crossings:
Next, they had a researcher play a pedestrian trying to cross at a crosswalk and tracked which cars stopped as the law requires and which blew right past him. The results were even more stark.
Every one of the cheapest cars stopped, while half of the expensive cars ignored the pedestrian in the crosswalk — many even after making eye contact.
Let’s go for some rapid-fire findings
That research has shown the rich cheat more on their taxes. They cheat more on their romantic partners. The wealthy and better-educated are more likely to shoplift. They are more likely to cheat at games of chance. They are often less empathetic. In studies of charitable giving, it is often the lower-income households that donate higher proportions of their income than middle-class and many upper-income folk.
It’s almost like being really, really rich makes some people feel like they’re above the law.
To finish, the ultimate finding – rich people are literally more likely to take candy from children:
In that experiment, they first asked 129 subjects to compare their finances with people who had either more or less money. Then they gave their subjects a jar of candy and told them the sweets were intended for children in a nearby lab but they could take some if they wanted. Those who felt richer after comparing their finances to poorer people took significantly more candy for themselves.
You can point to something like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has seen many of the world’s richest people pledge the majority of their fortunes to charitable causes, as an argument against bashing rich people, of course.
This study, though, looks more at why wealth and power affect behaviour:
…wealth and power strip people of their inhibitions, increase risk taking and feelings of entitlement and invulnerability. At the same time, power makes people less empathetic and able to see others’ perspectives.
“Wealth is basically a mechanism for power, and power has a freeing effect on people. It takes away the constraints of society and frees people to act according to their dominant desires,” said Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School, whose experiments have explored how power often propels people’s actions.
In some cases, those desires may be altruistic or helpful to society, so power heightens those goals and can give rise to effective philanthropists. Often, however, power leads to self-serving behaviors [sic] unrestrained by the usual concerns over rules or the consequences for others.
Get as filthy, stinkin’ rich as you like and live the holiday, fine people. Just remember to be a good person whilst doing so, and try and cut back on the stealing of kids’ candies.
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