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"Just the idea of holding money can make people selfish."
July 3, 2012 7:03 AM   Subscribe

How Money Makes People Act Less Human: Earlier this year, [Paul] Piff, who is 30, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that made him semi-famous. Titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” it showed through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can, colloquially speaking, dehumanize people. It can make them less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children. “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff says, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”
posted by Mooski (70 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

 
In other news, Water Wet. More at ten.
posted by cross_impact at 7:07 AM on July 3, 2012


Yes, but does it make them more flavorful?
posted by notyou at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


Correlation doesn't indicate causation, as my AGW denialist friends like to say. Seems like assholes are more likely to get rich because they are more willing to do unethical assholish things like cut wages/hours/benefits etc. in order to maximize profits.

That makes more sense to me than the idea that when money magically falls into your lap you suddenly become a dick.
posted by natteringnabob at 7:11 AM on July 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


When there's enough distance a person can believe that they're not like the other people.

You are a special snowflake, as shown by your riches. Not like the dirty, ugly Other. So why not take from the Other? They're worth less than you anyhow. If they weren't, they'd be rich like you. In fact, they probably want your stuff. So best just avoid them and take advantage where you can.
posted by jaduncan at 7:12 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes, but does it make them more flavorful?

Why, yes it does. But the richer they are, the less you can eat at one time.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:12 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anecdotal! When I worked at a local theatre as the front of house coordinator, we often used local high school students as ushers.

When the group was from the poorest public school, they would arrive dressed up and you could leave money sitting around and nobody would touch it - in fact, they'd alert you to the fact that money was around.

When the group from the snooty private school was ushering, they'd show up dressed like snobs and our staplers and tape dispensers would vanish.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:14 AM on July 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


I bet in the old country his family name was Piffle.
posted by ubiquity at 7:15 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, if you peons don't stop saying nasty things about the job creators, they might stop creating jobs for you. Now take your bowl of mush and give thanks to the 1%, from whom all blessings come.
posted by Alexander Hatchell at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm glad that science is finally trying to prove something we've suspected all along.
posted by freakazoid at 7:18 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


they'd show up dressed like snobs

I meant dressed like slobs, but I suppose snobs works, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2012


That makes more sense to me than the idea that when money magically falls into your lap you suddenly become a dick.

Well, considering how much family circumstances are a factor of wealth maybe not. It does seem like sort of a no-brainer to me: if you spoil a kid, you end up with a spoiled brat. Many of the rich are essentially spoiled adults.
posted by nanojath at 7:21 AM on July 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Correlation doesn't indicate causation, as my AGW denialist friends like to say.

Tha was my kneejerk reaction too. Then I RTFA and saw that most (not all, to be sure) of the experiments described controlled for that.
posted by ook at 7:21 AM on July 3, 2012 [27 favorites]


As Neuroskeptic has pointed out, these results came under some fairly heavy-duty statistical criticism in a recent letter to PNAS. The observed power of each of Piff's seven findings was fairly low -- only around 50% in most cases -- and so the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis in each of those seven experiments is incredibly unlikely, suggesting that the published results are due to (perhaps unwitting) publication bias rather than information about a real effect.

As Neuroskeptic analogizes,
Think of it this way: if you took a pack of cards and discarded half of the black ones, then shuffled the remainder, a random card from the deck would most likely be red. But even so, it would be unlikely that you'd pick seven reds in a row. The chances of all 7 studies finding a positive result - even assuming that the effect claimed in the paper was real - is just 2%, by [the power] calculations [mentioned above].
When evaluating science, especially science journalism, be sure to be extra cautious when the narrative supports exactly what it is that you (or the author) wants to be true. Maybe it is true, but please hesitate before carting out the "studies show" canard when ordering The Rich at your local diner.
posted by mister-o at 7:23 AM on July 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yes, read the F'n article. Taking people off the street and giving them financial advantages in the instant causes them to behave differently in the instant. It's a great study with obvious results, but these are the obvious results that need to be proved via study in order for "anecdata" claims to be waved away.

I'd like to think that if I was invited to play the tilted Monopoly game as the "rich" guy that I'd just offer to split the initial draw with my opponent, refuse to roll, and call the game a draw...
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's interesting, mister-o. Have Voh's "priming" experiments been similarly discredited? Those were the ones I found most interesting; Piff's going-out-and-counting-expensive-cars ones seemed pretty loosy-goosy by comparison.
posted by ook at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2012


Here we go again with lazy claims that correlation=/=causation.

It's always the same. Excellent research such as this come to Metafilter, and the thread gets riddled by people who once learned that saying "correlation=/=causation" makes you sound clever. Apparently it also make people believe they are excused from reading the article.

Please read the article.

The last time I had to do this speech was when we were discussing how medical marijuana laws causes a reduction in traffic deaths. There exists protocol that are capable of discovering causation. That was one of them, and this article too, is one of them.

They took people with the same wealth and had them play monopoly. They bent the rules so that one player would inevitably gather more money more quickly. Then they measured minute aspect of his behavior. Overwhelmingly, people let the play money get to their head, and their personality turn one step or to toward being a jerk. That's evidence of causation.

With enough permutations of studies of this kind you can conclude definitively that the effect is causal.

Or, as xkcd says, science, it works, bitches.
posted by gmarceau at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2012 [43 favorites]


Correlation doesn't indicate causation, as my AGW denialist friends like to say. Seems like assholes are more likely to get rich because they are more willing to do unethical assholish things like cut wages/hours/benefits etc. in order to maximize profits.

Not all of the studies were based on correlation. Consider the Monopoly experiment right at the beginning of the article, for example. Or the "thinking about money" experiment.

But even if it were just a correlation, it would still be worth knowing. If rich people are more likely to be assholes, it matter so much whether they always were or the money made them that way. Either way, their influence in society should be constrained, and the solution is the same either way: take away the money.

The chances of all 7 studies finding a positive result - even assuming that the effect claimed in the paper was real - is just 2%

That's a fair criticism, and I think what it means is that we need more and better designed studies.
posted by jedicus at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


...and so the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis in each of those seven experiments is incredibly unlikely...

But let's not let that get in the way of calling the rich assholes. I'd love to see the opposite of this thread; some Ivy League pedigree scientist with a paper "proving" that the poor were lazier or more pre-disposed to crime or something. There would be 50 comments in a row completely destroying the statistical methods of the author instead of anecdotes about "snooty" rich kids who stole staplers and "news at 11."
posted by gagglezoomer at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Here we go again with lazy claims that correlation=/=causation.

The only way I can truly believe this is if someone gives me a lot of money so that I can observe the phenomenon first-hand. I'm not sure I can get any prickier, but in the name of science, I am willing to take the chance.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:30 AM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Making money is easy, if all one wants is to make money."
posted by jscalzi at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, an aside regarding style at New York Magazine:
When Piff designed a similar experiment to test drivers’ regard for pedestrians, in which a researcher would enter a zebra crossing as a car approached it, the results were more staggering. Like New Yorkers rushing past that stroller mom on their way to work, fully half the grade-five cars cruised right into the crosswalk.
(emphasis added). I thought that was weird. Did the author use the British term just to avoid repeating the word crosswalk?
posted by jedicus at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


it matter so much whether they always were or the money made them that way

Blergh. It doesn't matter so much.
posted by jedicus at 7:33 AM on July 3, 2012


gagglezoomer: But let's not let that get in the way of calling the rich assholes. I'd love to see the opposite of this thread; some Ivy League pedigree scientist with a paper "proving" that the poor were lazier or more pre-disposed to crime or something. There would be 50 comments in a row completely destroying the statistical methods of the author instead of anecdotes about "snooty" rich kids who stole staplers and "news at 11."
... which wouldn't in any way affect the actual validity of the study.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:34 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't think this proves anything more that when people who have not had money, suddenly get money, they can become assholes, at least at first, unless these studies also tracked verrry long Monopoly games.

For example, and anecdotally, some of the sweetest, nicest people I know were born rich and so have always had money. So, they have money but they never did not have money which was an initial requirement in these studies.

Also, I don't think its about money specifically. It is about power and giving it to people who have not had it before. You see this in so many walks of life. It is the caricature of the petty bureaucrat, who having been given some small power over a domain of your life, abuses it. We've all experienced it. But we also know that not everyone is like that.
posted by vacapinta at 7:40 AM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


So this confirms what we've always said about the nouveau riche, eh?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:43 AM on July 3, 2012


natteringnabob: “Correlation doesn't indicate causation, as my AGW denialist friends like to say.”

gmarceau: “Here we go again with lazy claims that correlation=/=causation...”

Can we please stop saying this? It's dumb. There is no way to establish causation except to attempt to demonstrate consistent and controlled causation. "Causation doesn't indicate causation" is fair enough in the abstract, but it can be uttered as a dismissal of any scientific investigation, regardless of rigor. It's lazy, it's simplistic, and it disregards the realities of how science actually works. Also, it's pretty tedious at this point.
posted by koeselitz at 7:44 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


The only way I can truly believe this is if someone gives me a lot of money so that I can observe the phenomenon first-hand. I'm not sure I can get any prickier, but in the name of science, I am willing to take the chance.

I smell a Kickstarter!
posted by nanojath at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great article. I always say that money f's people up, but interesting how it makes a person think they become a little superhuman. Except for me, I am just as arrogant with or without money. : )
posted by Yellow at 7:51 AM on July 3, 2012


My GoogleFu is failing moi, but what was that infamous study done on young boys at two summer camps? Where they started acting out Lord of the Flies due to the scientists telling them they were competing for resources?

Then when they were heading home, the scientists broke the van down and told the boys they couldn't go back home unless they all worked together to fix it. Suddenly, they got along again. For a common goal.

I think if something bad happened, the rich people would forget about their money hoarding and all pull together. Right? Like a natural disaster or something. You can't be a hoarder if your house gets swept away to sea or your bank falls down in an earthquake, can you now?

NotYou: I laughed really hard at your comment. Are they flavorful. THANK YOU! :-D
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:51 AM on July 3, 2012


My GoogleFu is failing moi, but what was that infamous study done on young boys at two summer camps? Where they started acting out Lord of the Flies due to the scientists telling them they were competing for resources?

The Robbers Cave study.
posted by jedicus at 7:54 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think if something bad happened, the rich people would forget about their money hoarding and all pull together. Right?

I don't think that would be shocking. The "I've got mine Fuck You" crowd would naturally be heavy into sharing when they no longer have got theirs.
posted by Mitheral at 8:04 AM on July 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


So Sklavenmoral and Herrrenmoral do exist?
posted by joost de vries at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2012


Does less money cause people to act more human?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2012


Isn't this tautological? If someone was truly unselfish, would they be really rich? Can you become really rich in a totally ethical and compassionate manner?
posted by desjardins at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


How does philanthropy fit into this explanation? Bill Gates giving away tens of billions of dollars, for instance?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:13 AM on July 3, 2012


Isn't this tautological? If someone was truly unselfish, would they be really rich? Can you become really rich in a totally ethical and compassionate manner?

The experimenters control for that by selecting which subjects will succeed. The subjects didn't become "rich" by their own efforts.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:15 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I cannot locate the quotation, but it seems to me Logan Pearsall Smith wrote something to the effect that, "To imagine that one could have money without acting as the rich do is like imagining that one could drink all day and not become drunk."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Does less money cause people to act more human?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective


No, wait. First I want to know if rich people become nicer when you take away their money.

I feel a counterintuitive rush coming on. I have tried to work this out. My red-haired uncle is an asshole, but he doesn't have any money. Let's line these guys up and take a survey.
posted by mule98J at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


“Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior” [PDF]
posted by chavenet at 9:22 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That makes more sense to me than the idea that when money magically falls into your lap you suddenly become a dick.

That's been observed human behavior for a long time:
"Nothing so evil as money ever grew to be current among men. This lays cities low, this drives men from their homes, this trains and warps honest souls till they set themselves to works of shame; this still teaches folk to practise villainies, and to know every godless deed. But all the men who wrought this thing for hire have made it sure that, soon or late, they shall pay the price."
—Sophocles, Antigone

"[If] we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
—1 Timothy

"Every man suddenly became related to Kino's pearl, and Kino's pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes, the plans, the futures, the wishes, the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man's enemy. The news stirred up something infinitely black and evil in the town; the black distillate was like the scorpion, or like hunger in the smell of food, or like loneliness when love is withheld. The poison sacs of the town began to manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffed with the pressure of it."
—Steinbeck, The Pearl
When you ask a person if the poor should be fed, they will say yes. If you ask a millionaire if the poor should be fed with their money, do not be surprised when the answer is no.

Americans could pass a law tomorrow taking 20-30% of our military budget and possibly eliminate the most grinding sort of poverty for the entire planet, but we haven't, and we won't, because power and wealth have corrupted our society to the point where keeping our little empire together is more important than saving lives.
posted by deanklear at 9:27 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


The experimenters control for that by selecting which subjects will succeed. The subjects didn't become "rich" by their own efforts.

Besides the monopoly example, where do you see that in the article?
posted by desjardins at 9:34 AM on July 3, 2012


desjardins: Isn't this tautological? If someone was truly unselfish, would they be really rich? Can you become really rich in a totally ethical and compassionate manner?
Jesus, is that you? You old kidder, taking over desjardins' account that she left open, when you returned to Earth!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:37 AM on July 3, 2012


desjardins: Besides the monopoly example, where do you see that in the article?


Study #4 in the paper also provides causal evidence. They primed people to momentarily feel richer, and somehow that turned into them eating more of the kid's candy than people eat otherwise.

Quoting:
The manipulation of social-class rank was successful: Participants in the upper-class rank condition (M = 6.96) reported a social-class rank significantly above participants in the lowerclass rank condition (M = 6.00), t(127) = 3.51, P less than 0.01, d = 0.62.

Central to our hypothesis, participants in the upper-class rank condition took more candy that would otherwise go to children (M = 1.17) than did those in the lower-rank condition (M = 0.60), t(124) = 3.18, P less than 0.01, d = 0.57.

Furthermore, replicating the findings from study 3, those in the upper-rank condition also reported increased unethical decision-making tendencies (M = 4.29) than participants in the lower-class rank condition (M = 3.90), t(125) = 2.31, P less than 0.03, d = 0.41.

These results extend the findings of studies 1–3 by suggesting that the experience of higher social class has a causal relationship to unethical decision-making and behavior.
posted by gmarceau at 9:51 AM on July 3, 2012


The pencil study talked about on page 3 is also has an experimental design capable of discovering causality. Quoting:
That person (who worked for Vohs) would drop 27 tiny yellow pencils, like those you get at a mini-golf course. Every subject in the study bent down to pick up the mess. But the money-primed subjects picked up 15 percent fewer pencils than the control group
posted by gmarceau at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2012


There was an experiment done a few years back (February, 2007, Quarterly of Economics) in Argentina in which landless peasants were randomly given (i.e. gifted) title over plots of land. After receiving the land, the former squatters were more likely to agree with statements saying that one can succeed on one's own. It also made them less trusting of the landless class from which they came. In other words, not correlation, but causation of assholism.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 10:22 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is crucial to understand that the title of the paper addresses prediction, not causation. It seems a priori just as likely that those who devote their life work to becoming wealthy, as opposed to some more tangible goal like making good pies or curing disease, would tend to be a little less connected to the human race. So many of the wealthy may have started out less connected, less socialized, less identified with other people.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:27 AM on July 3, 2012


Whoops! Didn't see your post (c'mon, man, preview!), Dodecadermaldenticles, before posting. That study (do you have a link to it?) certainly argues causation. It doesn't rule out selection also being a factor. It would be interesting if the Argentinian investigators measured attitudes prior to the random selection for sudden wealth. The relative impact of the two factors could then be assessed rigorously.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:31 AM on July 3, 2012


When you ask a person if the poor should be fed, they will say yes. If you ask a millionaire if the poor should be fed with their money, do not be surprised when the answer is no.

I think the accepted nugget of wisdom is that a significant percentage of the population will agree that "the government should do more to help the poor" but a much smaller percentage will agree that "the government should increase welfare."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:42 AM on July 3, 2012


The cool thing about money is that it requires society (or a social contract of some kind) to make it work. Without society, there is no need for money — you just whack the other subordinate monkey over the head with a rock and take the watering hole. With society, even if money makes monkeys instinctively act like assholes, society can set up other rules that bind all players, like impersonal wealth redistribution.

So money is bad, but it could be worse. We could be back in the pre-money days when people just took what they wanted by force. It still happens, sure, but we can engineer the Monopoly game the way we want, creating improved sets of laws and societal expectations, however slowly and imperfectly that process operates.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's possible to be rich and not an asshole. Just like it's possible to be smart and not pompous. Or to have any other tool and not wield it clumsily. It requires training. The newly rich generally have never been trained on how to deal with wealth. The old rich, at least the old rich from societies that have successfully negotiated the torches & pitchforks era of serf revolt, know that it is really quite important to make sure the poor are well kept. The new rich, especially ones from societies like ours that have NOT lived through those times, have no idea how to deal with the poor.

It's an interesting argument, that since the US successfully cast off its aristocracy via armed revolt 200 years ago, it has basically forgotten all those hard lessons that Europe learned through the dark and middle ages about keeping the population well fed and reasonably healthy. It seems a simple calculus: once the poor have nothing left to lose, they'll take up arms in revolution. But where is that lesson taught? We have no crumbling castles here, no reminders not only of the great power of aristocrats to build mighty edifices, but also the great power of the poor to tear the fuckers down.

The scales of power in the US have been sundered -- there is no balance, because the current rich have no aged advisors or mighty tomes or decaying frescoes or rotting fortifications and never known what happens when the needle tips too far to the right. So right now they're just assuming that technological pacification along with a police state will take care of any sort of rebellion, and sure, it's been working so far, but it's a pressure pot situation so instead of just simmering or boiling over, it's going to explode.

And that's why old monarchies are actually pretty cool -- because if they are OLD then they know what to do in order to survive. I'm not saying they're the right model, but I am saying that there is a tremendous amount of hard-won knowledge there that is being ignored. And it's perilous.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:11 AM on July 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


The Neuroskeptic letter to PNAS is kind of badly written. They point out a legitimate concern about the power of the studies, but they don't prove that anything untoward happened. Then, when they sum up at the end, they act as though they did prove it.

What they showed was that, if the effect sizes were actually the ones measured, then only 2% of the time would the experiments all have shown statistical significance at alpha=0.05. The two obvious rejoinders are that things that happen 2% of the time happen -- in fact, they happen roughly 2% of the time; and that maybe the effect sizes are larger than observed (Neuroskeptic acknowledges this possibility and then glosses over it).

The Neuroskeptic letter is interesting and deserves a response, but it's not a damnation of the work.
posted by gurple at 11:15 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops, I had thought that Neuroskeptic and Gregory Francis were the same person; they're not.
posted by gurple at 11:33 AM on July 3, 2012


Oh, and as Neuroskeptic notes, Piff did respond.
posted by gurple at 11:36 AM on July 3, 2012


Here we go again with lazy claims that correlation=/=causation.

That's why correlation != causation has a place of honor in my Metafilter Drinking Game Bingo, right along side sample size objections.
posted by Justinian at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree 100%, I'm definitely a better, (more balanced and focused, creative), and even happier person when I need to truly truly be careful with money. I attribute it to my working class background though and perhaps being more comfortable, in a strange way, with struggling a bit.

But this study seems to suggest perhaps a bit of hardship and struggle to survive makes more of who we are "go online" as it were.

It might also be the narrowing of options and avoiding the tyranny of too much choice, which I think I saw a study about recently, I believe.

(Too many fucking empty consumer choices...not enough real sustenance...)
posted by Skygazer at 12:04 PM on July 3, 2012


Here we go again with lazy claims that correlation=/=causation.

I like when "correlation=/=causation" becomes all these people proving that "correlation=/=causation" = "causation". That's so amusing.

And then all these mefites proving that:

("correlation=/=causation" = "causation") = Correlation

Because:

{("correlation=/=causation" = "causation") = correlation} = (correlation=/=causation)


/Head....
posted by Skygazer at 12:19 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems like assholes are more likely to get rich because they are more willing to do unethical assholish things like cut wages/hours/benefits etc. in order to maximize profits.

That makes more sense to me than the idea that when money magically falls into your lap you suddenly become a dick.


Jesus, read the article.

"This in turn raises the ancient conundrum of chicken and egg. If getting or having money can make you hard-hearted, do you also have to be hard-hearted to become well-off in the first place? The bulk of the new research points decisively in the direction of the former."

Americans could pass a law tomorrow taking 20-30% of our military budget and possibly eliminate the most grinding sort of poverty for the entire planet, but we haven't, and we won't, because power and wealth have corrupted our society to the point where keeping our little empire together is more important than saving lives.

Very well put. The most important thing for Americans is to ensure that their standard in life is better than all those brown people out there. It's disgusting.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:50 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Might this be a sort of evolutionary function? It's awfully Darwinian.
posted by Skygazer at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2012


Might this be a sort of evolutionary function? It's awfully Darwinian.

"Hey, we're all in this together."

*finds a huge cache of bananas*

"I got mine, Jack. You fend for yourselves..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very well put. The most important thing for Americans is to ensure that their standard in life is better than all those brown people out there. It's disgusting.

Actually, I'd be quite ecstatic if that was indeed THE most important thing for Americans, but look at any sort of economic statistic involving wealth gaps, public health, or unemployment levels makes that statement untrue.
posted by FJT at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2012


How does philanthropy fit into this explanation? Bill Gates giving away tens of billions of dollars, for instance?

The study is of a trend; there is always going to be a spectrum (see for example Larry Ellison or as far as we know Steve Jobs) and some members of a group aren't going to fit at all.
posted by Mitheral at 3:15 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


T. Byram Karasu, a psychiatrist at Albert Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center who treats wealthy clients, believes all very successful people share certain fundamental character traits. They have above-average intelligence, street smarts, and a high tolerance for anxiety.

I found that interesting. He's not saying they don't experience anxiety, he's saying they can stand it, like a high tolerance for pain. I was thinking, stupidly, I wonder what that's like? but actually, I have a high tolerance for pain. So it's like that, I guess. You feel it but you're not emotionally caught up in it and you know you just put up with that and it passes through you but doesn't kill you. I can both totally imagine what he's talking about and am totally incapable of imagining it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:06 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


(emphasis added). I thought that was weird. Did the author use the British term just to avoid repeating the word crosswalk?

In New York, zebra crossings are used to indicate intersections where pedestrians have been injured:
In 1995, the Pedestrian Projects unit of the Department of Transportation worked with the Roadway Engineering Division to introduce a third crosswalk marking called the “zebra,” solely for dangerous locations. This involved altering the width, use, and warrants for stop lines. In addition, it was one of the first instances where an ISTEA-funded unit created specifically to address pedestrian issues affected a change in citywide policy.

The “zebra” crosswalk is an adaptation of the ladder, which has two 305 mm (12 in) lines running the length of the crosswalk that close each end of the 305 mm (12 in) bars. In contrast, the zebra crosswalk has open-ended bars and uses a 610 mm (24 in) stop-line in advance of the crosswalk. This stop line is set back at least 1.5 m (5 ft) from the crosswalk. Ladder markings are now reserved solely for the school route network.

Previously, a dangerous location was defined when two or more pedestrians had been hit by vehicles for three years in a row in a specific crosswalk. To account for data irregularities and underreporting, the definition was changed to an average of two injuries per year within a five year period for an entire intersection. This also made it possible to install zebra crosswalks for an entire intersection instead of singling out a specific crosswalk. In new or reconstructed locations, intersections that were considered potentially dangerous could receive zebra crosswalks. Each of these policy changes allowed the agency to act proactively.
Also, I'm not sure about New York, but zebra crossings can indicate a permanent pedestrian right-of-way in the absence of an opposing traffic signal. So, while a "vanilla" parallel line only crosswalk might not give a pedestrian priority over traffic, it's likely that in this study the pedestrians legitimately had the right-of-way.
posted by pullayup at 5:38 PM on July 3, 2012


Ask anybody who's studied some statistics, or maybe just anybody with an half functioning brain: what the hell does "rich" mean?

Actually It's a conventional definition - where conventional means "we got togheter and decided what makes a person rich". Now let' say that the amount of money one owns makes a person more or less "rich".

If so, if I own $1 I am rich, if compared to one who owns $0. Pretty simple, isn't?

But would most people say that the guy who has $1 is "rich" ? Not at all! They'd call him " poor" almost anywhere on the globe!

So we also need a definition for "poor", don't we? Well, it varies a lot, but again it is entirely -conventional- , again meaning WE got to decide what makes a person poor and why it's important.

Imho, that's quite more important that deciding wheter "rich" people are psycopaths or not, or tend to be psycopaths, because unsurpisingly one may find out that psycopaths-thieves-whatcrimehaveyou can fit in the "poor" category as well!

Far more interesting, again imho, is figuring out why so many people are now increasingly anxious about their INCOME and their financial future - maybe it has something to do with an incredible -income disparity- and -income uncertainity- ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:24 PM on July 3, 2012


Haven't we know this all along? It reads like the plot to Trading Places.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:07 AM on July 4, 2012


There was an experiment done a few years back (February, 2007, Quarterly of Economics) in Argentina in which landless peasants were randomly given (i.e. gifted) title over plots of land. After receiving the land, the former squatters were more likely to agree with statements saying that one can succeed on one's own. It also made them less trusting of the landless class from which they came. In other words, not correlation, but causation of assholism.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 10:22 on July 3


Link to the paper [PDF] mentioned above.
posted by stp123 at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2012


More nuance:

Given power, low status people tend towards asshattery: ".... individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners (e.g., bark like a dog three times) than did those in any other combination of power and status roles..."
posted by storybored at 12:02 PM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ask anybody who's studied some statistics, or maybe just anybody with an half functioning brain: what the hell does "rich" mean?

Actually It's a conventional definition - where conventional means "we got togheter and decided what makes a person rich". Now let' say that the amount of money one owns makes a person more or less "rich".

If so, if I own $1 I am rich, if compared to one who owns $0. Pretty simple, isn't?


elpapacito, i love you, but no one would call someone with $1USD rich, even if he/she had $0.

The rich: Exactly what does the terminology mean?

"The amount of money it takes to be 'rich' usually equals somewhere around one hundred times what a person (ed: from a very limited sample set) has made in the last year (at least, based on what I could estimate that people make). So, someone that makes $20,000 a year would say that two million would make them rich. Someone making $100,000 a year would answer that ten million would make them rich."

I think I'm rich now, and I have a net worth of about $550,000 USD. That's 7-8x my yearly salary.

“I’m not rich,” Rhonda said. “I still have to come to work every day.”

When pressed, Rhonda elaborated, “I have this concept of what it means to be rich. Rich people keep buying Stuff. They don’t think about what it means to consume in the way they’re consuming. When I think of rich people, there’s a negative connotation. That’s part of why I don’t want to be called rich. Rich people are selfish. The rich don’t care about other people.

posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 PM on July 5, 2012


Where the Money Lives: For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney’s fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on July 5, 2012


Where the Money Lives: For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments.

To be clear, R-Money's touted less-than-15% tax rate is on his reportable income, probably greatly reduced by his (probably legal) tax-dodging not available to us mere mortals. I shudder to think how small his tax burden is on his whole take.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:19 PM on July 5, 2012


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