Sunday, September 08, 2013

The wealthy's compassion deficit

A large body of research point to a compassion deficit in the rich that plays out in big and small ways. As reported in Scientific American, for example, drivers of luxury cars cut others off at intersections at a much higher rate than those driving economy cars. Other studies have found that the wealthy are more likely to lie in negotiations and less likely to agree with statements such as "I often notice people who need help." And during simulations in which participants could divide up candy, giving some to children and keeping some for themselves, wealthier participants consistently kept more for themselves and gave less to children.
Does all this mean, perhaps, that selfishness is part of what enables some people to prosper? No. Rather, research suggests that it is a result rather than a cause of financial success. Simply creating the feeling of wealth in someone can result in self-justification. UC sociologist Paul Piff demonstrated this with rigged Monopoly games in a study involving hundreds of students. One "wealthy" player began the game with twice as much money and got to roll two dice instead of one. But when the clearly advantaged player won, he or she was highly likely to attribute it to skill rather than to preset advantage.
At the University of Rotterdam, a series of studies found that people primed with reminders of money preferred to play and work alone, put more physical distance between themselves and new acquaintances, and were less helpful when they saw someone in need of assistance. Read More