Why differences in social class lead to different judgments...

When faced with a dilemma, the choice is often between bad and bad. Studies have shown that individuals of different classes differ in their judgment of – and response to – similar dilemmas. A shift in focus between empathy and a more utilitarian position can explain these differences. Generally speaking, individuals that are upper class choose differently than individuals from all other classes when faced with difficult dilemmas. Upper class individuals consider the overall consequences and therefore choose the bad that is least bad for the general picture. Lower class individuals tend to show more empathy to what is close by, which results in making different choices (Piff & Willer, 2012). Upper class individuals more often choose to inflict or allow harm to one person to create more gain (or less loss) for more persons, whereas lower class individuals more often choose to save one person from major harm, even if this leads to more harm to a larger group of people. Adaptation to the situation Given the (relatively) more threatening environments they live in and their relative lack of material resources, lower-class individuals engage in a variety of adaptive social-cognitive processes (knowledge and strategies people develop to handle social situations). As part of this process, lower-class individuals respond adaptively to threats in their environments by building supportive, interdependent networks that they can draw on to confront threats when they arise (Piff & Willer, 2012). In other words, they rely on their neighbors, friends and family when they need help to kick your ass – or mine. But where do these differences come from? Do upper class individuals lack empathy? Do the lower-class individuals lack sight on the ‘bigger picture’? Probably both are true. Researchers have found that the...

Greediness: why the rich behave inappropriately...

Why would someone be greedy? The poor: fewer resources and more uncertainty make it reasonable to be motivated to behave unethically and increase resources or overcome disadvantages. The rich: greater resources, more freedom and less dependence from others give upper-class individuals more reason to be self-focused, which might lead to unethical behavior. The recent economic crisis has partly been attributed to wealthy people that behaved unethical (Piff, Stancato, Côté et al., 2012). A (self-focused) upper-class individual is worse at identifying the emotions of others, less concerned with and less conscious of others, and more disengaged during social interaction. Greed is a robust determinant of unethical behavior. Findings suggest that upper-class individuals are particularly likely to value their own welfare over the welfare of others and hold more positive attitudes toward greed. Lower-class individuals quite often have negative experiences with others being greedy, while not being in the position to be greedy themselves. This easily leads to disliking greedy behavior (Piff, Stancato, Côté et al., 2012). Hence upper-class individuals are more often greedy, which leads to more unethical actions. Greedy people In studies where greediness and wealth (SES) were correlated with unethical behavior, greediness was found to be the predictive factor. Yet greediness and wealth go together and therefore can be ‘replaced’ by one another in the list below (Piff, Stancato, Côté et al., 2012). For example: ‘people in  more expensive cars’ (wealthy people) can be replaced by ‘greedy people’, while the statement that they are likely to cut off others remains valid. This goes for all findings about the relation between greed/wealth and unethical behavior listed below. People in more expensive cars more often cut off others. People in more expensive cars stop less often at a crosswalk. In...