The new study looked at whether wealthy people acted as if their needs were more important than those of other people.
The researchers conducted several experiments, including two outside a laboratory. In one, the researchers watched a four-way intersection with four stop signs to see whether expensive cars, presumably driven by wealthier people, would be more likely to ignore the rules and not wait for their turn.
The "highest-status" cars, including certain years of Mercedes-Benz and BMW models, cut off other drivers 30 percent more of the time compared to "lowest-status" cars such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Corolla or older trucks, which broke the rules 7 percent of the time, Piff said.
Cars that were presumably driven by richer people were also more likely to cut off pedestrians who were stationed at an intersection by the researchers.
The trends held up when the researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as whether some cars were more likely to have drivers of a certain gender or age range.
Were people in expensive cars behaving this way on purpose? "I don't think it's necessarily that someone is actively thinking that they want to [cut off] someone else," Piff said. He said it may have more to do with "unconscious ways of attuning to the world, more focus on oneself versus a heightened vigilance."
The researchers also conducted several non-driving experiments in which they asked participants to rank their own social class in terms of income, education and job status, then to consider various scenarios that included measures of unethical decision making. Participants who perceived themselves as wealthier had a greater tendency to make unethical decisions, the investigators found.
So what might all this mean?
Adam Galinsky, a professor of ethics and decision in management at Northwestern University, said i
All rights reserved