Having Money Can Make You Feel Entitled, But There’s A Remedy

1/28/14 4:10PM EST

Having Money Can Make You Feel Entitled But Theres A Remedy Having Money Can Make You Feel Entitled, But Theres A Remedy

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Psychology researchers used a simple game of Monopoly to show the effects of income inequality on a small scale.

They found that people with more money to their name almost immediately feel more entitled. They become ruder, less empathetic and more dominant.

“As a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feeling of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases,” researcher Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, explained in a TEDx talk.

The Study And Findings

Piff and his research team paired strangers up for short games of Monopoly. At the beginning of the game, the players flipped a coin to determine who would be the “rich” player and who would be the “poor” one. The rich player started with more money, rolled more dice each turn and collected more money when they passed Go. They were given the economic upper hand in every way.

The players then played for 15 minutes while being observed via hidden camera.

Piff explained, “As the game went on, …the rich players actually started to become ruder to the other person, less and less sensitive to the plight of those poor, poor players, and more and more demonstrative of their material success, more likely to showcase how well they’re doing.”

The rich players began moving their pieces loudly and announcing how much money they had. One such rich player summarized his feelings, “I’m pretty much untouchable at this point.”

The rich players also gained a sense of entitlement: Rich players ate more from a bowl of pretzels than did the poor players.

By the end, the rich players completely forgot about the entitlement factor in their success. “When the rich players talked about why they’d inevitably won in this rigged game of Monopoly,” Piff explained, “they talked about what they’d done to buy those different properties and earn their success in the game.”

Other Studies Support The Findings

This isn’t the only study Piff has conducted to gain insight into greed and social structures. His other studies have largely reached the same conclusions: people who feel rich also feel more entitled and less empathetic.

In one study, participants were told that a jar of candy was reserved for children. He found that people with better economic standings were twice as likely to take candy.

In another, he gave participants $10 each and told them they could share the money or keep it all. Those with the lowest salaries gave 44 percent more than those who earned the most.

A different study used traffic patterns to demonstrate a sense of entitlement. Piff and other researchers looked at which drivers stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and which drivers kept going. Under California law, where the study took place, drivers are required to stop for pedestrians.

Piff found that a car’s cost was inversely correlated to how likely the driver was to stop for the pedestrian. Those driving the most expensive cars broke the law almost half the time, while absolutely no cars in the least expensive category broke the law.

The results clearly show that money causes ethical and social changes that aren’t necessarily good or helpful.

Changing Society

There is some good news: People’s values are malleable and can be changed. Piff found that when rich people watch videos of people acting generously and selflessly, they’re more likely to act the same.

Simply implying that people should act morally actually makes people act morally. So, while there are issues with income inequality and entitlement, they don’t have to be permanent.


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