Monday, August 26, 2013

The Wealthy: Entitled, Greedy, And Narcissistic


A little over a year ago we published a piece,"The Wealthy Are Different," from the New York Magazine that "...dove deep into the relationship between economic status and negative psychological characteristics such as a dearth of empathy, insensitivity to and unregard for other people, the tendency to cheat and even to be a jerk while driving - the results of a Monopoly game.

"The study, by 30 year old psychologist Paul Piff, at UC Berkeley showed that 'Putting someone in a role where they’re more privileged and have more power in a game makes them behave like people who actually do have more power, more money, and more status.'"

And today's post, "Study finds wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement and narcissistic behaviors," by Eric W. Dolan at Rawstory.com, complements our earlier posting quite nicely, as it digs a little deeper into the psyche of the rich and powerful:


"Climbing the economic ladder can influence basic psychological processes within an individual.

"According to a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month, wealth tends to increase a person’s sense of entitlement, which in turn can lead to narcissistic behaviors.

"Paul Piff of the University of California at Berkeley told PsyPost 'there is something about wealth that gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism).'

"'Narcissism is a multi-faceted and complex construct, but that wealth is specifically associated with it suggests that as a person’s level of privilege rises, that person becomes increasingly self-focused – in a sense, becoming the center of their own world and worldview,' he explained.

"'The studies in the paper measure narcissism in a whole host of ways, including measuring how likely someone is to stare at their reflection in a mirror (wealthier people do that more often). Even students who come from wealth, but have done little to create their own wealth (yet), report more entitlement. This suggests that wealth shapes an ideology of self-interest and entitlement that’s transferred culturally from one generation to the next.'

"Piff conducted five experiments to investigate the associations between social class, entitlement, and narcissism.

"The first experiment consisted of a survey that measured levels of entitlement and socioeconomic status. Piff found higher social class was associated with an increased sense of entitlement. 'Upper-class individuals were more likely to believe they deserved special treatment and feel entitled to more of everything.' They were also more likely to believe that if they on the Titanic, they would deserve to be on the first lifeboat.


"In the second and third experiments, Piff used other surveys with different measures of entitlement and socioeconomic status to confirm his initial findings.

"In the fourth experiment, Piff discovered that upper-class individuals were more likely to look at their own reflections in a mirror, even when controlling for self-consciousness. The final experiment found that exposing upper-class individuals to egalitarian values reduced entitlement and decreased narcissism.

"'Lots of important caveats to be aware of, including the fact that we are measuring correlations and averages across groups of people, which means that there are of course many exceptions to the patterns we document,' Piff told PsyPost. 'Also, simple interventions can reduce narcissism among the wealthy, suggesting their narcissism is neither innate nor fixed. When wealthier participants in one study were asked to think about three benefits of treating others as equals, they subsequently became less narcissistic. Egalitarian values can reduce narcissism. The implications of this are fairly profound, I think.'

"The Berkeley researcher has received a great deal of attention for his studies on how wealth influences behavior. His previous research found upper-class individuals were more likely to lie and cheat when gambling, cut people off when driving, and endorse unethical behavior in the workplace."

Originally published by PsyPost






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In their entry on "Wealth Inequality in The United States," Wikipedia defines the subject so:


"Wealth inequality in the United States, also known as the 'wealth gap', refers to the unequal distribution of assets among residents of theUnited States. Wealth includes the values of homes, automobiles, personal valuables, businesses, savings, and investments.[2] The top 10% wealthiest possess 80% of all financial assets.[3] Although different from income inequality, the two are related.

"A 2011 study found that US citizens across the political spectrum dramatically underestimate the current US wealth inequality and would prefer a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth.[4]
In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%. Financial inequality was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 42.7%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50.3%, and the bottom 80% owning 7%.[9] However, after the Great Recession which started in 2007, the share of total wealth owned by the top 1% of the population grew from 34.6% to 37.1%, and that owned by the top 20% of Americans grew from 85% to 87.7%. The Great Recession also caused a drop of 36.1% in median household wealth but a drop of only 11.1% for the top 1%, further widening the gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99%.[1][9][10] According to PolitiFact and others, top 400 Americans "have more wealth than half of all Americans combined."[11][12][13][14][15]

"Essentially, the wealthy possess greater financial opportunities that allow their money to make more money. Earnings from the stock market or mutual funds are reinvested to produce a larger return. Over time, the sum that is invested becomes progressively more substantial. Those who are not wealthy, however, do not have the resources to enhance their opportunities and improve their economic position. Rather, "after debt payments, poor families are constrained to spend the remaining income on items that will not produce wealth and will depreciate over time."[32] Scholar David B. Grusky notes that "62 percent of households headed by single parents are without savings or other financial assets".[33] Net indebtedness generally prevents the poor from having any opportunity to accumulate wealth and thereby better their conditions.

"Affluent people are more likely to allocate their money to financial assets such as stocks, bonds, and other investments which hold the possibility of capital appreciation. Those who are not wealthy are more likely to have their money in savings accounts and home ownership.[34] This difference comprises the largest reason for the continuation of wealth inequality in America: the rich are accumulating more assets while the middle and working classes are just getting by. Currently, the richest 1% hold about 38% of all privately held wealth in the United States.[3] while the bottom 90% held 73% of all debt.[32]


"There are vast differences in wealth across racial groups in the United States. The wealth gap between white and African-American families nearly tripled from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009.[36]


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Which leads us to "Upper class more likely to be scofflaws due to greed," a story at Psypost.org:

"The upper class has a higher propensity for unethical behavior, being more likely to believe – as did Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street” – that “greed is good,” according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

"In seven separate studies conducted on the UC Berkeley campus, in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide, UC 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 behavior in the workplace.


"'The increased unethical tendencies of upper-class individuals are driven, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed,' said Paul Piff, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper published today (Monday, Feb. 27) in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Piff’s study is the latest in a series of UC Berkeley scholarly investigations into the relationship between socio-economic class and prosocial and antisocial emotions and behaviors, revealing new information about class differences during a time of rising economic tension.

"'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 behavior, and points to certain ways in which these patterns might also be changed,' Piff said.

"To investigate how class relates to ethical conduct, the researchers surveyed the ethical tendencies of more than 1,000 individuals of lower-, middle- and upper-class backgrounds. Volunteers reported their social class using the MacArthur Scale of Subjective Socioeconomic Status and filled out surveys revealing their attitudes about unprincipled behaviors and greed. They also took part in tasks designed to measure their actual unethical behavior.

"In two field studies on driving behavior, 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 behavior were more likely than the individuals in the other socio-economic classes to report replicating this type of behavior themselves.

"Participants in the fourth study were assigned tasks in a laboratory 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.

"In the fifth study, participants each were assigned the role of an employer negotiating a salary with a job candidate seeking long-term employment. Among other things, they were told that the job would soon be eliminated, and that they were free to convey that information to the candidate. Upper-class participants were more likely to deceive job candidates by withholding this information, the study found.

"In the sixth study, participants played a computerized dice game, with each player getting five rolls of the dice and then reporting his or her scores. The player with the highest score would receive a cash prize. The players did not know that the game was rigged so that each player would receive no more than 12 points for the five rolls. Upper-class participants were more likely to report higher scores than would be possible, indicating a higher rate of cheating, according to the study.

"The last study found attitudes about greed to be the most significant predictor of unethical behavior. Participants were primed to think about the advantages of greed and then presented with bad behavior-in-the-workplace scenarios, such as stealing cash, accepting bribes and overcharging customers. It turned out that even those participants not in the upper class were just as likely to report a willingness to engage in unethical behavior as the upper-class cohort once they had been primed to see the benefits of greed, researchers said.

"'These findings have very clear implications for how increased wealth and status in society shapes patterns of ethical behavior, and suggest that the different social values among the haves and the have-nots help drive these tendencies,' Piff said of the cumulative findings.


"Other coauthors of the study are UC Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton and Daniel Stancato, and Stéphane Côté of the University of Toronto. The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

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The rich are different from the rest of us, and it's no wonder that they pay the ultimate price when revolutions overthrow them.  In the French Revolution their heads rolled off of the chopping block; after Castro's revoluton, many of the murderous rich were lined against the walls and shot; thousands left the country for England and Canada when the American Revolution made life here for the Tories too precarious for comfort.


After Conservatism is made illegal, while we have frequently called for the re-education of Conservative Sheeplets in camps built just for that purpose, and the essay notes that "simple interventions can reduce narcissism among the wealthy, suggesting their narcissism is neither innate nor fixed," the severity of the punishment of the greediest among us must be predicated by the damage to human life and the misery the rich have inflicted upon the 98 percent of us.


Confiscation of their assets and the steering of that income into productive channels as well as for reparations  is, of course, a must - even if we have to enter other countries to bring them back home for justice.




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Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest
motives."

Oscar Wilde.

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