Upper Classes ‘More Likely to Lie and Cheat’

John Bingham writes in the Telegraph:

Members of the upper classes are more likely to lie, cheat and even break the law than people from less privileged backgrounds, a study has found. In contrast, members of the “lower” classes appeared more likely to display the traditional attributes of a gentleman.

It suggests that the traditional notion of the upper class “cad” or “bounder” could have a scientific basis. But psychologists at the University of California in Berkeley, who carried out the study, also suggested that the findings could help explain the origins of the banking crisis – with self-confident, wealthy bankers more likely to indulge in reckless behaviour.

The team lead by Dr Paul Piff, asked several groups of people from different social backgrounds to perform a series of tasks designed to identify different traits such as honesty and consideration for others …

27 Comments on "Upper Classes ‘More Likely to Lie and Cheat’"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Feb 28, 2012 at 12:10 am |

    Meanwhile in related news, no one shocked by findings.

  2. I’m only honest when someone is looking.

  3. Butter Knife | Feb 28, 2012 at 12:47 am |

    When people are exposed to hardship and lack, they tend to develop a sense of camaraderie and cooperation as a tool for survival. Military veterans, especially those who served as infantry in actual combat, often consider the other members of their unit to be pseudo-family for decades after leaving the service, and many keep in touch well into their old age. People who work regular, civilian jobs full-time will, by contrast, often spend decades working with other people whose names they don’t even know.

    The wealthy, by virtue of their material comfort, are generally not accustomed to compassion and mutual respect in the same way that the poor are. Their existence has not demanded it, and thus they have had little incentive to develop these traits.

    Compounding this, being nice to other people is an economic impediment when compared to pursuing one’s own best interest to exclusion of all others. To the extent that economics are sometimes a zero-sum game, helping others is directly contrary to one’s own best interests. This means that individuals able to behave in a more sociopathic manner are, perversely, financially rewarded for doing so. Those who are most able to become wealthy are also least likely to have strong morals and ethics, and at the same time those who are most wealthy are the least likely to develop morality and ethics.

    • I want to be more of a selfish prick

    • Correct, thoughtful, and very well stated.

      Beyond the “common sense” aspects of what you wrote, there are studies which objectively demonstrate the various facets of your explanation. 

      I frequently find myself in conversations with members of the political/economic Right who simply can’t accept that individually selfish behavior doesn’t lead to the best outcome for everyone.

      Even after walking them through “thought experiments” and historical examples where sometimes universal selfishness isn’t the best course of action, they deny that the “invisible hand” of the free market could produce anything other than the optimal outcome.

      When pressed further they frequently appeal to St. Adam Smith and I have to leave them with this parting thought…”Adam Smith has as little to do with discussions of current economic theory as Louis Pasteur has to do with modern microbiology.”

  4. Hadrian999 | Feb 28, 2012 at 12:59 am |

    they know the rules are only a system of control to keep the lower classes in their place. laws exist to grease the wheels of the system and keep it running smoothly, who cares if the system is working if it isn’t working for you. the whole law and order protestant work ethic is a very clever invention to keep peasants being peasants.

  5. Umm, thats how they got there.

  6. Mamagriff50 | Feb 28, 2012 at 7:18 am |

    Completely understand this! Back in the 70’s, when I was in high school, we had little $$. Two of my best friends had plenty. I got shoes once at the beginning of the school year. Their parents gave them $$ severasl times a year to buy more. We would go to the store and they would swap out their worn street shoes for new ones. They still had a pocket full of $$. They did it with shirts too. They liked the thrill of it. Getting away scot-free. I wonder what they did when their own children probably did the same thing, if they got cought. Probably said kids will be kids. They’re still well to do. Entitlement….I don,t think so.

    • TruthersSoSmart | Feb 28, 2012 at 11:04 am |

      What are you, Peter Parker?  That poor people value a bit of money as a reward for hard work doesn’t make it morally right.  It means you’re a cog in the machine, you’ve been hoodwinked.

    • I knew other rich kids like that.  People commit crimes like theft for motivations other than money. 

    • Your comment reminded me of a similar situation that I was in: in high school I had a friend who was the son of a rich corporate lawyer. He was given a lot of pocket money and always wore the most expensive clothes and displayed the most expensive gadgets. When we went out to lunch, he would find it exhilarating to steal the waitresses’ tips from other tables. I could only marvel at his crumminess. Another friend of mine, who saw that deplorable behavior when I did gave him a shove in disgust. Ho hum. He followed in his father’s footsteps and is now rich too.

    • Investinourftre | Feb 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

      Wow i knew a rich kid who tried to shoplift at every store, we called him Klepto, he lived in a house bigger than our high school.  Funny this story is dead on.

  7. Ronniedobbs | Feb 28, 2012 at 8:40 am |

     and how do you think they became the “upper classes” in the first place?  hard work and honesty? 

  8. 2012 Slave Games | Feb 28, 2012 at 9:29 am |

    Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan has
    reportedly said that insecure workers
    are vital to the health of the economy, since
    they keep inflation low (by being too scared
    to risk asking for wage increases).  So if thats what’s going on at the bottom.  We know it can’t get better the further up the food chain.  The oppressors love the system because it works. Simple as that.  Why change a system when you reap all the benefits.  Just pay off your lawyers when you get in hot water.  But this Elitist mindset eventually turns on its masters.  Because they just get more arrogant, and more ruthless, and eventually the whole system will fall apart. just like Rome.  Ignorance is Bliss.  & The Class wars still rage on.  http://t.co/lr5fEFQf   .   The upcoming generation is seeing the deception & wont fall for it.

    • The elites made the mistake of trying to destroy the middle class.  they continue the battle for more money & power.  Anyway, the more people wake up and fight back the easier this class war will be to win. 

  9. Dingdingchomp | Feb 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm |

    Do we really need to waste money and time to discover the obvious?

  10. Worst than that, it is also suggested that the lower class view the immoral actions of the upper class as more acceptable than they view the same actions done by members of their own class.Needless to say it is the exact opposite of how the upper class view those same actions.

  11. if you can afford a good lawyer anything is possible.

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