Many of the people who’ve taken part in Occupy Wall Street protests claim the wealthy — or, as they call them, “the one percent” — are selfish and unethical. And now a new study may have proven them right.

A series of experiments with 1,000 people were conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley. “We found that it is much more prevalent for people in the higher ranks of society to see greed and self-interest… as good pursuits. This resonates with a lot of current events these days,” said lead study author Paul Piff, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley.

In one study, researchers found that people driving pricier cars were more likely to cut off pedestrians and other drivers at a busy four-way intersection than those who drove older, less-expensive vehicles. And in other experiments, participants with more money were more apt to lie during negotiations, admit to unethical behavior in a variety of everyday scenarios, and cheat during an online game.

“Elevated wealth status seems to make you want even more, and that increased want leads you to bend the rules or break the rules to serve your self-interest,” Piff said, adding, “This has some pretty clear implications. … People in power who are more inclined to behave unethically in the service of gains and self-interest can have great effects on society as a whole.”


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