January 10, 2014

Why the rich really are different

In short, it’s because being rich leads you to think that you are better or smarter or more deserving than other people. Or all three.

Donald Trump feels entitled to a gilded old age.

Donald Trump feels entitled to a gilded old age.

It’s the way our quirky little brains justify our place in the universe. And Paul Piff, a post-doc at UC Berkeley, is proving it.

Dr. Piff’s studies of wealth, greed, and moral values involve observation of real humans in experimental situations designed to show exactly what financial  success breeds and it isn’t pretty.

Notably, he set up a Monopoly game in which two players tossed a coin to see who would have the advantage – i.e., twice as much money to start with and twice as much for passing Go, among other things. As the game progressed, the advantaged player became more aggressive, less patient and – surprisingly – made less and less eye contact with his opponent.

This was repeated about a hundred times and always, advantaged players forgot they’d been given an edge from the start – some were even overheard explaining how they’d clearly played a superior game.

(This, btw, explains the celebrity of Warren Buffet – a rich person famous mostly for not acting like one.)

In other studies, Dr. Piff – whose work seems to have caught everyone’s interest – has also found that the rich are more likely to shoplift than the poor and in at least one experiment more likely to break another law – BMWs, Mercedes and other high-end autos tended to run through crosswalks more  than medium and low-priced vehicles.

But the corruption, arrogance and greed associated with the wealthy, while it is real, is not, Dr. Piff says, immutable.  Happily, very small changes can bring them back to more generally accepted moral values; the doctor explains all in this TED talk:




  1. That’s a wonderful TED talk. Thanks, Jean.


    Comment by Jane — January 10, 2014 @ 5:17 am | Reply

  2. very interesting!! love ted talks


    Comment by ninachat — January 10, 2014 @ 11:35 am | Reply

  3. Super ! Thank you, frm opinion to fact.


    Comment by Avery Zia — January 11, 2014 @ 7:59 am | Reply

  4. Made me think of other studies I wish they’d run. Loved the positive notes at the end especially.


    Comment by Carol — January 11, 2014 @ 8:30 am | Reply

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