Monday, February 2, 2015

Riches Make you Obnoxious

One of the songs that Maria Irene Fornes wrote for the music Promenade involved an ostinato setting of the text "Riches make you dumb." That may have been all very well and good for avant-garde theater in Seventies New York; but a card-carrying psychologist has an alternate take on the rich. The psychologist is Paul Piff, formerly at the University of California at Berkeley and now in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the Irvine branch. He has been studying the behavior of the wealthy (and the poor) for about a decade. His results were reported last week by City Hall Reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle Heather Knight.

Knight distills Piff's conclusions down to a single sentence:
Rich people are more likely to behave unethically even if they get very little benefit.
She then elaborates with a few choice examples:
They’re more likely to take candy from a jar labeled as just for kids, cheat at games and cut off pedestrians in crosswalks. They’re also more likely to say they’d do the same thing when told about somebody who accepts bribes, lies to customers, cheats on an exam or pockets the money when a clerk gives too much change.
The headline for her article refers to such individuals as "jerks." I suspect that most of us would come up with far choicer nouns. The bottom line is that, while riches may not make you dumb, they certainly make you very obnoxious!

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