According to an article in New York Magazine, a team of psychologists at Berkeley, led by Paul Piff, have shown
"... through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can, colloquially speaking, dehumanize people. It can make them less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children. 'While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,' Piff says, 'the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.'"Piff and other colleagues are exploring a relatively new area of research that focuses on "the haves." As the article says:
"Money has a million symbolic meanings and reflects as many human yearnings; wanting it, getting it, having it, using it, and abusing it are entirely different impulses with entirely different effects on personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships, and no single researcher has yet captured all of that nuance. But in a country that likes to think that class doesn’t matter, these social scientists are beginning to prove just how determinative money is."In an age of increasing income inequality, scientists like Piff want to know: "How does living in an environment defined by individual achievement—measured by money, privilege, and status—alter a person’s mental machinery to the point where he begins to see the people around him only as aids or obstacles to his own ambitions?" And researchers are discovering that "merely thinking about money can decrease empathy."
Read the complete article.
As Piff mentions in the article, "...having money doesn't necessarily make anybody anything," which is why humane education is so essential. It's likely easier for us to fall prey to the indifference that having more money can cause because we're part of a culture steeped in rewarding competition, individualism, materialism, and climbing over others on our way up that ephemeral and wobbly ladder of success. But what might our reactions be if our culture were based on values such as compassion, empathy, cooperation, and generosity? Humane education can help us create that culture.
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