Exploring the Psychology of Wealth, ‘Pernicious’ Effects of Economic Inequality

Back from Hungary. Here’s an interesting roughly 1o minute PBS segment on a series of studies on the Psychology of Wealth by by Paul Piff, Dacher Keltner, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Daniel Stancato, and Stéphane Côté. My favorite segment is the monopoly board experiment that gives one player clear ex-ante advantages and studies her subsequent behavior. The bottom line is that the vast majority of ex-ante advantaged participants believe they deserve their winnings (despite their obvious ex-ante advantages).

Here’s an abstract of some of this research:

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

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About ozidar

I'm an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Faculty Research Fellow at National Bureau of Economic Research. You can follow me on twitter @omzidar. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/owen.zidar/index.html
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