Rich People Are More Easily Offended by Unfairness, Study Finds
A new study from researchers in China and the Netherlands suggests that wealthy people are considerably more offended by unfairness in economic situations.
Words like entitled and privileged get thrown around a lot in conversations about wealth inequality. These terms are usually applied to the wealthy. But are there any measurable differences in the ways rich and poor people act out these traits when confronted with, say, an unfair deal? Research suggests there are.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, wealthy people feel more entitled to fairness and tend to reject unfair offers, and sometimes reject them out of spite.
The researchers, based in China and the Netherlands, conducted several studies to explore how people of various economic backgrounds behave when confronted with unfair deals.
In the first study, 278 participants were selected in China to play one round of the ultimatum game. The game, which is frequently used in economic experiments, works like this: One player (the proposer) is given a sum of money and is instructed to propose how to split that money with another player (the responder.) The proposed split can be fair or unfair. The responder can then choose to accept or reject the offer. If the responder rejects, both players receive nothing.
This ultimatum game used in the experiment was modified so that participants played only the role of responder. They had to accept or reject the following offer (converted here to U.S. dollars): the proposer gets $8, the responder gets $2. It was unfair, in other words.
After participants played the game, they provided researchers with their age, gender, ethnicity, family income, religiosity and educational background. They were also paid if they had accepted any unfair offers.
The results showed 43 percent of participants rejected the unfair offer. And a binary logistic regression revealed that family income significantly predicted their decisions to turn down the bad offers.
The researchers conducted two more studies. In the second, participants were again presented with a one-shot ultimatum game, only this time all participants were given $3 and half were randomly given $5 in a "lucky draw" game. This game required no skill, seeing as researchers wanted to see how these participants' temporarily inflated wealth would affect their decision-making, and they didn't want merit or work to be a factor at all.
After playing the "lucky draw" game and the ultimatum game, participants reported the same demographic information and were paid out. The results showed that 58 percent of participants rejected the unfair offer, and that here again family income significantly predicted that decision. Interestingly, those who were randomly awarded $5, which is to say those who were made to feel relatively and temporarily wealthy, rejected unfair offers more often than those who weren't awarded the $5, ostensibly because they felt more entitled to fairness.
Finally, researchers conducted a third experiment that closely mirrored the second, only this time they added a middle-income group and changed the ultimatum game so that participants were told they would still receive the proposed sum even if they shot down the unfair offer.
Diagram of the cost-free rejection game.
The purpose of the cost-free game was to address a concern surrounding the study, which was that poor people might be more needy and therefore more willing to accept unfair offers while the rich can afford to reject a bad deal.
Findings suggested that cost for rejection did not moderate the eﬀect of wealth on rejection of unfairness. Thus, the wealth eﬀect on response to unfairness could not be explained by need or cost, although participants were more likely to reject when rejecting an unfair oﬀer was cost-free than when it was costly.
Another interesting finding in the third study was that the middle-income group rejected unfair offers similarly to the low-income participants, while the rich turned down bad offers with much higher frequency, leading researchers to suggest:
...having more makes people feel more entitled to fair treatments (“have-more-eﬀect”), not that a state of “having less” undermines feelings of entitlement. Taken together, these ﬁndings provide strong support for the notion that the wealthy feel entitled to their fortunate situation, and are therefore more likely to reject unfair oﬀers by others.
The paper ends by suggesting that their findings can inform future conversations about wealth inequality.
The present ﬁndings are relevant to this debate, and raise the possibility that feelings of entitlement by the wealthy may serve to justify self-interested behaviors in various domains, and perhaps cause assertiveness not appreciated by less fortunate others. Moreover, our research suggests that the wealthy, or people who temporarily feel wealthy, are more easily oﬀended by unfairness...
...our findings suggest that wealth alone, even merely by luck, makes people feel more entitled, and more likely to reject unfair oﬀers.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Neuroscience is working to conquer some of the human body's cruelest conditions: Paralysis, brain disease, and schizophrenia.
- Neuroscience and engineering are uniting in mind-blowing ways that will drastically improve the quality of life for people with conditions like epilepsy, paralysis or schizophrenia.
- Researchers have developed a brain-computer interface the size of a baby aspirin that can restore mobility to people with paralysis or amputated limbs. It rewires neural messages from the brain's motor cortex to a robotic arm, or reroutes it to the person's own muscles.
- Deep brain stimulation is another wonder of neuroscience that can effectively manage brain conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson's, and may one day mitigate schizophrenia so people can live normal, independent lives.
As Game of Thrones ends, a revealing resolution to its perplexing geography.
- The fantasy world of Game of Thrones was inspired by real places and events.
- But the map of Westeros is a good example of the perplexing relation between fantasy and reality.
- Like Britain, it has a Wall in the North, but the map only really clicks into place if you add Ireland.
A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."
- The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
- Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
- However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.