Rich or Poor, We All Make Unethical Choices (Just for Different Reasons)
Rich or poor, we all make unethical decisions. However, a recent study has found that different socioeconomic classes will make these choices for different reasons.
Rich or poor, we all make unethical decisions. But Kate Wheeling from Pacific Standard has summarized a recent study, finding that different socioeconomic classes make these choices for different reasons.
So, what separates the rich from the poor? For Derek Rucker, a marketing professor at Northwestern University and co-author of the study, it's all about the perception of power.
In the team's research, they found that the poor were more likely to commit an unethical act when it benefited others, whereas high-society folks would commit a nefarious act when it benefited themselves.
"It changes our understanding of why those in a high social class might commit unethical acts. One perspective is that they’re just unethical bad people. Our perspective is that they’re a little more prone to be selfish, and so that leads to unethical behavior when it benefits the self."
To test this idea, researchers had subjects play a game of dice, where if players rolled a 14, they were either entered into a lottery to win a prize or they would have to nominate someone else. The game was rigged, so it was impossible to roll a 14—only a 12. However, that didn't stop those who saw themselves higher up the social ladder from cheating when there was the possibility of being entered into a lottery. But they were less likely to cheat when put in a position where they had to nominate someone else. For the poor participants, the situations were reversed—they were more likely to cheat when they could nominate someone else and less so when they would be entered in the lottery.
In summary, it was not social status that motivated these people, but the difference between independence and dependence. The researchers suggest that power increases independence, so those in a position of power are more focused on the self. Whereas the powerless are more dependent on the charity of others to get them by.
“Don’t take away that just because you feel powerful or powerless, or because you’re high in social class or low in social class, that that is deterministic of how you’ll behave. This is one factor that can contribute to people’s actions.”
In a writing exercise, researchers were able to manipulate people’s sense of power, which made the lower-society participants more apt to lie and cheat for their own gains. This result has made the researchers believe that these unethical tenancies could be manipulated through targeted messaging to deter such unethical behavior.
Read more at Pacific Standard
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.
- Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
- Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
- The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.
- Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
- Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
- Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.
- Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
- Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
- The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.