From Charles Choi, LiveScience
... Another lab experiment revealed that unethical behavior was not necessarily inherent to individuals. The researchers had volunteers compare themselves with people with the most or least money, education and respected jobs, thereby subtly putting them into the mindset of someone with a relatively low or high socioeconomic status. When then presented with a jar of candy ostensibly for kids in a nearby lab, those made to feel as if they were upper class took more candy that would otherwise go to children, findings that suggest the experience of higher social class might nudge one to act unethically.
"If you take lower socioeconomic status people and just change their social values very subtly, they'll act just as unethically as upper-class individuals," Piff said. "The patterns of behavior naturally arise from increased wealth and status compared to others." [Infographic: Who Has the Money & Power?]
These findings dovetail with other studies that also suggest more unethical behavior in the upper class. "A 2008 study of shoplifting found that upper-income and more educated participants were way more likely to have reported shoplifting in their lives — that's self-reported data, admittedly, but still interesting," Piff said. "Also, upper-income individuals are more likely to report having sped or breaking the speed limit."
"Juveniles of upper socioeconomic status are just as likely to engage in delinquent patterns of behavior as those of lower socioeconomic status, but they're driven by different things," Piff added. "Lower socioeconomic-status juveniles report that alienation and ostracization from communities and increased need leads them to commit certain types of transgressions, while wealthier adolescents report increased willingness to take risks and an increased sense of power and entitlement." ...