The Guardian reports: A raft of studies into unethical behaviour across the social classes has delivered a withering verdict on the upper echelons of society.
Privileged people behaved consistently worse than others in a range of situations, with a greater tendency to lie, cheat, take things meant for others, cut up other road users, not stop for pedestrians on crossings, and endorse unethical behaviour, researchers found.
Psychologists at the University of California in Berkeley drew their unflattering conclusions after covertly observing people’s behaviour in the open and in a series of follow-up studies in the laboratory.
Describing their work in the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, social psychologist Paul Piff and his colleagues at the Institute of Personality and Social Research claim that self-interest may be a “more fundamental motive among society’s elite” that leads to more wrongdoing. They say selfishness may be “a shared cultural norm”.
The scientists also found a strong link between social status and greed, a connection they suspect might exacerbate the economic gulf between the rich and poor.
The work builds on previous research that suggests the upper classes are less cognizant of others, worse at reading other people’s emotions and less altruistic than individuals in lower social classes.