New Study: The Wealthy are more Unethical

It's been said that money is the root of all evil. But does money really make people more likely to lie, cheat and steal? New research released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says "yes".

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 also 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.

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms --- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge --- has marked the upward surge of mankind." ~ Gordon Gekko, 1987

Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on other new research from the University of California, Berkeley collaborating this, and the impact of wealth on people’s behavior in a new 10-minute video from PBS (posted at YouTube)

This might help explain why some people like Wal-Mart's Christy Walton can rake in $1.2 million a day in unearned income with stock dividends, while at the same time, refusing to pay her employees a living wage in earned hourly income --- costing the taxpayers $6,000 per employee in government entitlements (aka "wage subsidies"). It seems that some of these people just can't help themselves...they're mentally ill!

* Download supporting information at --- "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials. Since its establishment in 1914, it continues to publish cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers, and actions of the Academy."

Forbes: Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs "The incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large. They lack the things that make you human: empathy, remorse, loving kindness."

BusinessInsider: 20 Signs You are a Psychopath - After CEOs, lawyers are the second most psychopathic profession in the world.

TIME: Study: 1 in 25 Business Leaders May Be Psychopaths - "Psychopaths, who are characterized by being completely amoral and concerned only with their own power and selfish pleasures, may be over-represented in the business environment."

Forbes: The Top 10 Jobs That Attract Psychopaths - 1. CEO, 2. Lawyer, 3. Media (Television/Radio), 4. Salesperson, 5. Surgeon, 6. Journalist, 7. Police officer, 8. Clergy person 9. Chef and 10. Civil servant

Bud Meyers: STUDY: 10% on Wall Street are Psychopaths - "Studies conducted by forensic psychologist Robert Hare indicate that about 1 percent of the general population can be categorized as psychopathic, but the prevalence rate in the financial services industry is 10 percent."

Psychologist Paul Piff and related research.

  • Reply to Francis: Cumulative power calculations are faulty when based on observed power and a small sample of studies Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2012 109(25)E1588

  • Evidence that publication bias contaminated studies relating social class and unethical behavior Proc.Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2012 109(25)E1587
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This seems too broad

It is too broad to claim that if someone has money, therefore, they are a sociopath or unethical.

Life just isn't like that and it's too stereotypical. To say there is a higher percentage of narassists, unethical people, sociopaths in the upper economic class, ok, probably so.

The Christy Walton example is illogical

We're being asked to believe that if a person makes more than 'a certain amount of money', that there is an obligation for them to pay his employees an amount more than what they are willing to work for. Why? If they don't want to work for that wage, they can quit. If no one wants to work for that wage, the store closes and Christy Walton gets hurt - unless she pays higher wages. But she is under no more obligation to pay her employees more than what they are willing to accept than she is obliged to pay more for her dinner than what the restaurant bill requires. The fact that she CAN is irrelevant.

not with a labor oversupply is this true

Corporations make it their business to have an unlimited supply of cheap labor. they do this by manipulating immigration, illegal labor and offshore outsourcing.

Therefore, the employee cannot quit and that is how Walmart gets away with it. There is no other job and that worker will easily be replaced for people need to eat, live and they are forced to take low paying jobs like the kind Walmart offers.

If there was not a flooding of the U.S. labor market the situation you describe would have some validity, but those are not the labor supply conditions.

"Behind every great fortune

"Behind every great fortune there is a crime" - Voltaire

Not upper vs. lower, but definite issues in society

Anyone that's been up and down knows there are truly great people ethically and morally in all strata. There are some CEOs that are great human beings, and the same with people that are lucky to find a spot in a shelter tonight. Same with people locked up and people at exclusive retreats this weekend. Some guys and girls with little $ to their name are trustworthy to the end even if it means they'll lose their jobs, and same with people that will lose a bonus or their jobs at the opposite end. And on the other end, well, visit the boardrooms and political retreats (e.g., the Hamptons this weekend) or prisons too. To say the rich are somehow worse or better morally or the homeless or inmates or struggling are worse is too weak. Even within homeless shelters and prisons and jails there are vast, vast differences. No real study with any reliability and scientific basis would go along with that. I don't like such broad generalizations.

But, what is truly ridiculous is the idea that $ or wealth in any form is the same as being brighter, more ethical, or a harder worker than someone that is poor. Google (or duckduckgo if you fear the NSA and other freedom crushers) the poor geniuses and great men and women that were screwed over by those with means, no ethics, a take everything at all costs attitude. So many people of genius, ethics, and freedom lovers were crushed by people without a brain in their heads, but with the willingness to crush their fellow humans in the name of power + $. Tesla vs. Edison, all the poor artists that rich people now collect but would spit on during their lifetimes, etc., etc. How rich was Gandhi? Jefferson? Tesla? Van Gogh? Da Vinci? Quite frankly, it doesn't matter, because no one cares about their lack of wealth - it just doesn't matter - they were great and still are. $ means nothing, other than a willingness to step on others and/or take credit for their work.

power and sociopathy

I wouldn't say that's true, while we hate Gaussian distributions and bell curves here, they are used way too often and especially with human beings, there is way more standard deviation than the formula allows...

That said, numerous studies have shown there are more sociopaths inside corporations and as one goes "up the hierarchy", the worse it gets. That's no surprise since the structure of corporations are authoritative, not collaborative. It fosters these types of people, narcissists, sociopaths and punishes the altruistic, the empathetic.

What is the phrase?

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven

Tesla was truly screwed over, first by Edison. Took over 100 years for his real genius to be acknowledged, AC power, radio, x-rays, wireless communications....

Sure, but the same could be said of poor criminals too

Any criminologist, corrections officer, detective, beat cop could cite endless examples of people without much legal or illegal $ that could give any CEO competition for lack of ethics. These studies on either side of the spectrum only cause problems because they are too easily dismissed.
It's like Forbes endless parade of crap/trash articles about how the unemployed are morons, or lazy, or uneducated and everyone with $ deserves/deserved it, worked harder, is smarter, and $ is the only thing that matters in life.
Really, a scientific study based on personality abnormalities (APA sociopathy, psychopathy, etc.), within a tiny population of people like CEOs should cause anyone with an interest in means, medians, general stats, and drawing conclusions about other humans real hesitation. Because the same thing could be said by visiting an unemployment office in one city or state and drawing conclusions about the entire unemployed population from that. It cuts both ways. And quite frankly I'm sick of people saying things like "anyone can get a job if they wanted one," etc. so I'm careful about flipping it to the top levels.

Complete BS Study. To

Complete BS Study. To determine ethical behavior and wealth, they sat at four intersections and recorded what car people drived and if they yielded to pedestrians. Now they try to extrapolate this to CEOs. What CEO is going to drive by their corner, especially when they looked at under 300 cars? What do they consider a "wealthy" car?

I guess Obama/Biden are

I guess Obama/Biden are mentally ill going by you absolutely inane example of the Walmart woman "It seems that some of these people just can't help themselves...they're mentally ill!".

I'm struggling everyday while Obama/Biden live like kings dropping millions of dollars every day. 5 days in Ireland, 1 week in Hawaii, 4 days in las vegas....... why cant he at least lower my taxes?

PAAS isn't peer reviewed.

The articles in Proceedings are not peer reviewed nor are the author's required to submit data or raw methodology. When I was younger we weren't even allowed to cite PAAS articles in our work unless it was a review, the term we used was 'paas the grain of salt'.

New Study: Unethical behavior

New Study: Unethical behavior can be profitable
New Study: Competitive people are more unethical
New Study: Smart people often advantage of less intelligent people
New Study: Educated people are more unethical

Wealth is correlated to education, intelligence, and a competitive spirit. Lurking variables pass the sniff test here. They weren't controlled for.

"But does money really make people more likely to lie, cheat and steal?" The paper doesn't even attempt to answer that question, a question of causation. They only addressed correlation.


Psychopathy is higher at the top, because we do not give one frigging ((*& about those of us on the bottom. We have drive-by shootings and mass killings, HOMELESS PEOPLE, increased poverty rates, etc... sociopathy is up for all (10%). You should see how the lower echelons are now manipulated (not lead) into KEEPING their jobs or else (unemployment...)
Go into a US public school compare to 20 years ago...wake up...and leadership , creativity is squelched or stolen now in US schools. Today--under the economic stresses. Yes, I think it is true. Guest--Worker Visas--(Congress), you really must dislike Americans...I could not believe how incredibly phony in Congress (Hispanic representatives and others--over this illegal immigration bull...I caught the little tiffs (healthcare coverage) ...I really think the US Congress and US Gov.also has plenty of sociopathy--what a combination-- majority of it is nothing but sterile cock-sucking (& worse). I am not naïve, I believe this data. ENDs justify the MEANS. Perverted or opaque cost-benefit, back to taxpayers (moral hazard).

The actual study

I think the study needs to go a little deeper...really if your ethics were seriously called (retaliate) , but out culture has gotten more competitive (bullying is in--acceptable--community bullying (like I need your advice) well as, conflict because of the entitlement issues.. and culture clashes (strong if abusive or harassing), but some ways we are entitled ( US rights violated vs. Darwinism). Because of the high rate of unemployment--and sequestrations--what a hey-day for sociopaths and nurturing sociopathy (On the front page of something). I don't think the really smart CEO's are sociopaths--they may know how to fight them, but I don't that all successful CEOs are...but they maybe mavericks(out-numbered)...because it is far more easier to lie (alter the truth) or not take responsibility and join in (seems to be succeeding)...also frugality is a virtue . I don't see giving away things as too wise either (that's for stupid...the ability to not see value in people, etc.. ). Our first President , Washington had a little "urban legend" or "myth" about the cherry tree...I think it is a good-one--what is truth?...what happened US? Money has always been associated with power, never intelligence or this anything new?