Upper classes more likely to cheat, cut corners

February 28th, 2012 - 6:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 28 (IANS) Upper classes tend to behave unethically, being more likely to believe — as did Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street” — that “greed is good,” says a new research.

In seven separate studies, University of California - Berkeley researchers consistently found that upper-class participants were more likely to lie and cheat when gambling or negotiating; cut people off when driving, and endorse unethical behaviour in the workplace.

“The increased unethical tendencies of upper-class individuals are driven, in part, by their more favourable attitudes toward greed,” said Paul Piff, doctoral student in psychology at UC-Berkley who led the study, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Piff’s study is the latest in a series of UC-Berkeley scholarly investigations into the relationship between socio-economic class and pro-social and anti-social emotions and behaviours, revealing new information about class differences during a time of rising economic tension, according to a California statement.

“As these issues come to the fore, our research - and that by others - helps shed light on the role of inequality in shaping patterns of ethical conduct and selfish behaviour, and points to certain ways in which these patterns might also be changed,” Piff said.

The researchers surveyed the ethical tendencies of more than 1,000 individuals of lower, middle and upper-class backgrounds. Volunteers also took part in tasks designed to measure their actual unethical behaviour.

In two field studies on driving behaviour, upper-class motorists were found to be four times more likely than the other drivers to cut off other vehicles at a busy four-way intersection and three times more likely to cut off a pedestrian waiting to enter a crosswalk.

Another study found that upper-class participants presented with scenarios of unscrupulous behaviour were more likely than the individuals in the other socio-economic classes to report replicating this type of behaviour themselves.

Participants in the fourth study were assigned tasks in a lab where a jar of candy, reserved for visiting children, was on hand, and were invited to take a candy or two. Upper-class participants helped themselves to twice as much candy as did their counterparts in other classes.

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