Does money make you mean? (TED lecture by Paul Piff)

December 23, 2013

Paul Piff is a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.​ He studies how wealth, the perception of being wealthy, and even the type of car one drives all affect people’s moral behaviour. His findings are both fascinating and disturbing. In general, the wealthier people are, the less compassionate they tend to be and they more they feel entitled to their wealth. These finding hold even with one’s “wealth” is clearly undeserved, as in a rigged game of monopoly.

There already exists a large body of evidence indicating that the more economic inequality there is in a country the worse off its citizens are. This evidence forms the basis of a strong utilitarian argument for wealth redistribution. However, the standard defence of existing inequities is that the more affluent members of society deserve have amassed their wealth through hard work and that they therefore deserve it. Piff’s research does a great job of showing how groundless this platitude really is. Piff also suggests some simple things that can be done to improve the moral behaviour of the wealthy.

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