Researchers have discovered an interesting correlation between wealth and social conduct: Rich people cheat more than poor people. This encompasses cheating in its many forms, including cheating on romantic partners and cheating on taxes. The wealthy are more likely to shoplift and more likely to take candy from children. And in addition to the cheating, rich people usually donate smaller portions of their income than people from the middle and upper class.
One of the researchers involved in documenting this trend is psychologist Dacher Keltner from UC Berkeley. He described human behavior as being highly predictable when it comes to power and wealth. In fact, Keltner discovered six years ago that there’s a strong correlation between rich people and their behavior behind the wheel. His studies were just one of many that revealed the harsh truth about people with money.
First, the researchers tracked cars that cut people off at a busy intersection. People in newer, more expensive luxury cars were four times more likely to cut people off and ignore right-of-way laws, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In a different phase of the study, researchers tracked how often people would stop for a pedestrian trying to cross a crosswalk. One hundred percent of people driving cheaper cars stopped for the pedestrian, while only half of the people driving expensive cars did the same.
Another study by Keltner revealed that adults who felt richer took more candy from a jar intended for children in a nearby lab. On the flip side, adults who felt poorer took less of the candy from the jar for kids.
The result showed that when people become wealthy, something changes their persona. Power “makes people less empathetic and able to see others’ perspectives.” Researcher Adam Galinsky, who looks into issues of power, elaborated.
“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.”
The implications of the study are fairly important, underscored Michael Kraus, social psychologist at Yale’s School of Management. He took Paul Manafort as an example, saying that it’s important to care about the ethics of wealthy people because they have a larger ripple of influence on the world around them.
“If someone like me steals something, it only affects only a handful of people. But if someone like Manafort steals or lies or cheats, it affects so many more people. There are foreign governments and banks involved. You start getting into that area where it can affect the whole country and the course of democracy.”