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Published 05 July 2012 07:40, Updated 06 July 2012 05:27
Research appears to indicate people can readily take on some of the more negative attributes associated with the wealthy during role playing games.
Psychologists are turning their minds to how wealth affects people’s behaviour and the findings are startling.
But the research, which comes against the backdrop of the Occupy Wall Street movement, is yet to reach a firm conclusion on one long-standing question about the rich: Does money make you mean, or are mean people better at making money?
New York Magazine explores the territory this month in a lengthy article picking the brains of researchers and psychiatrists, who if nothing else agree that there are certain behaviours and traits that appear to emerge in the wealthy, regardless of if they’re innate.
Among them: a propensity to act more aggressively and a tendency to drive with greater disregard for pedestrians and fellow motorists than the less well-off.
“[Wealthy people] are sexual and aggressive,” psychiatrist T. Byram Karasu tells New York Magazine. “They are also competitive with anyone and have no fear of confrontations; in fact, they thrive on them.”
University of California, Berkley researcher and psychologist Paul Piff has attempted to validate this stereotype through a series of tests involving rigged games of Monopoly, in which one player is able to accumulate wealth at a much faster rate.
“Putting someone in a role where they’re more privileged and have more power in a game makes them behave like people who actually do have more power, more money, and more status,” Piff tells NY mag.
“While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything, the rich are way more likely to prioritise their own self-interests above the interests of other people.”
Forbes picks up on the theme this week in an interview with Dr Reef Karim of Beverly Hills’ The Control Center, who suggests that personality traits that drive success in business can cause people to act impersonally to the people around them.
“A surprising number of very wealthy people don’t have the kind of driving motivation you’d think they would have, and which could lead to incredible charity work and empathy towards others,” Karim tells Forbes.
“It’s sort of a psychological paralysis due to money. Money can cripple you. In the end, it’s all about being human. It sounds cliché but it’s true: Happiness is not about money. The more we can bond with each other and connect with other people’s plights, the happier we are.”