Are the wealthy less compassionate?

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

Aston Martin's V-12, 460-horsepower Vanquish is displayed on the floor of the New York International Auto Show Thursday, April 12, 2001, in New York. The luxury Ford Motor Co. division unveiled the $228,000 car.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

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Are the wealthy quantifiable less compassionate? Well, according to David Wolpe in an article on the LA Times — who is going off of a large amount of scientific evidence — the answer is yes.

“A large body of research point to a compassion deficit in the rich that plays out in big and small ways. As reported in Scientific American, for example, drivers of luxury cars cut others off at intersections at a much higher rate than those driving economy cars. Other studies have found that the wealthy are more likely to lie in negotiations and less likely to agree with statements such as 'I often notice people who need help.' And during simulations in which participants could divide up candy, giving some to children and keeping some for themselves, wealthier participants consistently kept more for themselves and gave less to children,” Wolpe writes.

But is the wealthy’s apparent lack of compassion the reason they were able to climb to the top of the ladder in the first place? It’s well known that certain industries often have a cutthroat mentality in the upper echelons. Is less compassion the key to making it?

Apparently no. “Does all this mean, perhaps, that selfishness is part of what enables some people to prosper? No. Rather, research suggests that it is a result rather than a cause of financial success. Simply creating the feeling of wealth in someone can result in self-justification. UC sociologist Paul Piff demonstrated this with rigged Monopoly games in a study involving hundreds of students. One "wealthy" player began the game with twice as much money and got to roll two dice instead of one. But when the clearly advantaged player won, he or she was highly likely to attribute it to skill rather than to preset advantage.”

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and a writer for the Deseretnews.com Opinion section. Email Freeman at fstevenson@deseretdigital.com

Read more about the wealthy on the LA Times.

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