Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

– I love the irony.   Our ‘superiors’ tell us to be good little girls and boys; stand in line, no pushing, wait your turns.   And, they are off like shots racing for the prizes they convinced all of us to wait patiently for.   Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me.

– Dennis

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Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lowerclass 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 lowerclass individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

– To the study paper, itself:  

– Thanks to New Zealand’s National Radio program, ‘This Way Up’, for alerting me to this study.

– For an audio clip of the ‘This Way Up‘ episode, see Naked Science on 10 March 2012:  


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