I have written about how rich people often behave like jerks, such as ignoring the major role that luck played in getting them to where they are now and also drive arrogantly, as if they own the roads. These were largely impressionistic views, based on either my personal experience or reading about the behavior of others. So it was nice to come across this article that summarizes some studies that suggest that my impressions had some correspondence with reality.
Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley monitored motorist behaviour at a pedestrian crossing in California.
It is illegal for cars in California to not stop for a pedestrian at a zebra crossing but half of the drivers in expensive cars broke that law and didn’t stop for their fellow citizens who were waiting to cross the road.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in that survey is that the very oldest and least expensive vehicles were classified as ‘beater cars’ – In Ireland we would call them ‘bangers’.
Every single one of the people driving a banger stopped at the pedestrian crossing.
Another study looked at how people behaved during a game of Monopoly when the rules were heavily stacked in their favor so that the winner of the coin toss that determined the allocation of those privileges won easily.
You might expect the winner to be gracious in victory since they were afforded such a privileged starting position.
But the privileged players weren’t graceful at all, instead, they routinely bragged about their wealth and became fairly insufferable throughout the game.
Worse than that – after the game when they were asked why they think they won, most of them spoke of their brilliant tactics, their finesse at the game of monopoly and their daring moves.
This rigged game was played by more than a hundred different pairs and only a handful of the winners acknowledged that it was the flip of a coin that caused them to win the game. This was despite having been given incredible advantages over the other player.
This behavior mirrors how wealthy people in society ignore the importance of luck (especially the luck of birth) in their lives and think they are exceptionally skilled and gifted.
The author reports on other studies found wealthy people are more likely to lie and cheat and less likely to be generous towards those who are less fortunate.
It struck me there should be a word that captures the pleasure one feels when one comes across evidence that confirms one’s prejudices, similar to the word schadenfreude, the guilty pleasure felt at the misfortune of someone else. Maybe those who know other languages are aware of such a word.