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It's been said that money is the root of all evil. But does money really make people more likely to lie, cheat and steal? New research released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says "yes".


Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods, reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were also more likely to:

  • exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3),
  • take valued goods from others (study 4),
  • lie in a negotiation (study 5),
  • cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6),
  • and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals.

Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms --- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge --- has marked the upward surge of mankind." ~ Gordon Gekko, 1987

Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on other new research from the University of California, Berkeley collaborating this, and the impact of wealth on people’s behavior in a new 10-minute video from PBS (posted at YouTube)

This might help explain why some people like Wal-Mart's Christy Walton can rake in $1.2 million a day in unearned income with stock dividends, while at the same time, refusing to pay her employees a living wage in earned hourly income --- costing the taxpayers $6,000 per employee in government entitlements (aka "wage subsidies"). It seems that some of these people just can't help themselves...they're mentally ill!

* Download supporting information at www.pnas.org (PDF) --- "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials. Since its establishment in 1914, it continues to publish cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers, and actions of the Academy." (* This was also posted at the www.economicpopulist.org)

Forbes: Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs "The incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large. They lack the things that make you human: empathy, remorse, loving kindness."

BusinessInsider: 20 Signs You are a Psychopath - After CEOs, lawyers are the second most psychopathic profession in the world.

TIME: Study: 1 in 25 Business Leaders May Be Psychopaths - "Psychopaths, who are characterized by being completely amoral and concerned only with their own power and selfish pleasures, may be over-represented in the business environment."

Forbes: The Top 10 Jobs That Attract Psychopaths - 1. CEO, 2. Lawyer, 3. Media (Television/Radio), 4. Salesperson, 5. Surgeon, 6. Journalist, 7. Police officer, 8. Clergy person 9. Chef and 10. Civil servant

Bud Meyers: STUDY: 10% on Wall Street are Psychopaths - "Studies conducted by forensic psychologist Robert Hare indicate that about 1 percent of the general population can be categorized as psychopathic, but the prevalence rate in the financial services industry is 10 percent."

Psychologist Paul Piff and related research.

  • Reply to Francis: Cumulative power calculations are faulty when based on observed power and a small sample of studies Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2012 109 (25) E1588
  • Evidence that publication bias contaminated studies relating social class and unethical behavior Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2012 109(25)E1587
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