Great wealth brings great narcissism, study finds

Upper-class respondents showed enough entitlement and self-importance to suggest they'd kick you out of a lifeboat on the Titanic.

By Jason Notte Aug 27, 2013 7:25AM
Image: Wealthy couple celebrating in a car (© Image Source/Getty Images)Does money really change people, or does it just bring some less admirable qualities to the fore?

Evidence suggests that being rich makes you less charitable, less self-aware, less sympathetic and less capable of tempering your own worldview to seem just a bit less like that of a supervillain.

Now the author of a new study claims wealth "gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism)."

Paul Piff of the University of California at Berkeley conducted five experiments to investigate the associations between social class, entitlement and narcissism.

Those tests included a survey that measured levels of entitlement and socioeconomic status by asking questions such as whether a person believed he would deserve to be on the first lifeboat if he were a passenger on the Titanic. Upper-class respondents basically would have stampeded over women and children to get there.

In another experiment, Piff found that upper-class individuals were more likely to look at their own reflections in a mirror, even when Piff factored self-consciousness into his margin of error. While there were notable exceptions to the various correlations, Piff noted that all of the results highlighted an uptick in self-interest among the wealthy and a self-centered worldview that Piff says is handed down through the generations, including to students from wealthy families.

That doesn't mean the rich are hopeless jerks doomed to seek only self-satisfaction while bulldozing all other people in their path. Piff noted that introducing egalitarian ideals as simple as treating others as equals can reduce the amount of narcissism and entitlement these folks kick off at any given moment.

Yes, the wealthy are apparently so self-involved and greedy that they need to be reminded that other human beings exist and should be treated as equals.

Piff's studies have reached similar conclusions before. In 2010, his research discovered that the rich were insufferable jackasses and were more likely to cheat when gambling, cut you off in traffic, lie to you in job interviews, and steal cash and take bribes on the job.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 27, 2013 9:32AM
I would be interested to see the difference between earned rich and inherited rich.  I find that often people who have earned their wealth tend to be some of the most polite, giving and modest people you meet, where as their children expect the world to be givin to them.
Aug 27, 2013 11:05AM

You just described the political class that runs this country.

Now what does that say about the multitudes who keep voting them back in?


Stupid is stupid does.

Aug 27, 2013 12:15PM

Wealth is a magnifier, if you're a giver, it allows you to be more of a giver, if you're an ****, it allows you to be more of an ****.

it's not the moneys fault, money is a tool people use to get what they want.

don't blame the money, blame the ****

Aug 27, 2013 9:36AM
Can we at least all agree that everyone sux except me?
Aug 27, 2013 11:57AM
figures and a kinda strikes a reference to  the only 2 incidents of violence in the bible by Jesus, when he threw the money changers out of the temple twice. 
Wealth is not the problem. 
It is when the love of money takes over and is stronger than doing the right thing, and good men doing nothing allowing evil a foothold.   

Aug 27, 2013 10:27AM
I probably meet more millionaires in my line of work than most people do in theirs.  Many of them  I've know for several years.    The wealthy that I know, the vast majority anyway, are not like the ones portrayed in this report.  They are down to earth and, except for a bigger bank account, are like my clients who are middle class and my clients who are poor.  Yes, I know one or two who are jerks.  However, I know many more middle class and poor clients who are also jerks.  Consider the source of this study---a liberal biased UC Berkley professor.  In my own experience of the past 30 years I find few of his conclusions to be true.
Aug 27, 2013 11:40AM

You know, I read this again, and, although it’s huge in generalization, it really applies to everyone, not just the wealthy. Plenty of those who aren’t wealthy are mean, too. And, lots of wealthy people are great! Care, be aware, and be kind – everybody!  If we judge the wealthy, or anyone else, too harshly, aren’t we doing the same thing?

Aug 27, 2013 11:54AM
A truly good person cannot be corrupted by money, but unfortunately being a less than good person is often a much easier path to take. Regardless of the reason, when someone assumes he is better than someone else, he/she is of little use to me. At my age I know several people who were corrupted by money, and they are real A-Holes, but they were "better-than-thou" types before the money, so it only brought out more of their greed and self-centered egos. Money isn't everything ... Money can't buy you love !!!
Aug 27, 2013 12:27PM
I do not know how accurate the sample is, so I won't comment on the results.  However, I have been unemployed and poor a number of times.  I have never been rich, but at the moment, I am financially secure.  If I had to choose between rich and poor, I will take rich!  Poverty sucks.
Aug 27, 2013 1:12PM
wealth also brings selfishness more greed and cruelty.i worked in several 5 star hotels repairing phone these people we were just "the help" and therefore invisible.people without money arent people to these things.i listened to one old lady remark about how she was going to try to make her tables servers cry by leaving a tiny tip would anyone like to wager if she can.she was rude,abusive and liked to snap her fingers in the air to get their waitresses attention.which was hardly necessary since they had several servers.ive overheard bankers laughing about how easily our politicians could be this case i actually became visible and they moved out of hearing range.i learned to hate the rich not because they have money but because they forget the qualities that make a decent person
But the most important point was missed, pricks like the above mentioned have no real friends, only more pricks they know, and usually the wife is humping gardener.
Aug 27, 2013 12:07PM

There are the "pretenders" and the "wannabees"


Everyone should try to appear somewhat decent when around others, and not look down upon some that have not, any other choice.

As some have said, when you have made it; NO reason to try and impress anyone.

I seldom where a suit anymore, nor even shirt or tie....Hate ties. Not anywhere to Anything.

As you get older, you get away, unshaven and longer grey hair...Some will kid, of course.

When I go to town in my farming or gardening clothes(and old truck,w/dog), people usually treat me nice..There is a reason.

And When you are driving a Hi-liner vehicle, no one cares how you are dressed or the length of your hair or beard...For some reason it doesn't seem to matter.

" Never judge a Man, by what he wears; For underneath those rags may be a Millionaire."

Aug 27, 2013 9:33AM
avatar kidding...what a surprising story!!! NOT!!!

Millionaires and billionaires think the less fortunate should "give" a little more...gas prices at $4-$5 per gallon don't hurt those that clear over $250K a year, But hurt a lot for those under $75K per year!

The spread is increasing, and the white collar criminals (wall street and politicos) are leading the pack!

Aug 27, 2013 9:51AM
There's an old guy here in Brevard County who drives up and down US 1 in his blue Porsche convertable, tailgating, speeding to 80 mph, and making abrupt lane changes in order to get ahead of everyone else.  I think this article is right on the money, so to speak.
Aug 27, 2013 9:29AM
It seems to me that most of what is described in this article can be attributed to many, many, many more people who have no money, no money skills and tremendous debt.  As well as, an inflated ego that one would encounter in today's US society.   Plenty of lawyers and judges for example who's  only accomplishment is they went into debt to the tune of 200K to complete law school and think they are better than everyone else.  But while I mentioned lawyers as an example you could insert any occupation including the professional poor, cops, bankers, athletes -- I mean anybody could fit the above article's description.  And since the article is in the vein about a study that demonizes "rich" people like a lot of MSN junk, of course, it's generational and it is soooo virtuous to be poor.  What nonsense. 
Aug 27, 2013 11:19AM
I find that wealthy people (for the most part) are as described by this article.  Those who were unintentionally wealthy, eventually also succumbed to the "entitiled" mentality of being "better" than common people.  It's hard to be just a regular person, when you can take for granted what others fight to attain, or lament when they do without.
Aug 27, 2013 12:48PM

Hm, the American dream!  Get lots of money so you can return to your class reunion and show off to the jackasses you knew in highschool.

Aug 27, 2013 9:52AM
Regardless of whether the wealth is inherited or new wealth created via some invention or investments, in the end the results will be exactly the same. Either your parent raised you right or they didn't. If not, you might end up being the selfish, think you are entitled to everything jerk. To those types, everyone else are mere peasants.

Poor folks are worried about their appearance just as much as anyone else. However, when they work hard all day for slave wages, at the end of the day, they have actually worked so they can't keep smelling like a rose like someone that hasn't. Poor folks go to functions all the time and dress the part. That has very little to do with wealth. Now the cost of their suits/dresses as compared to the SuperRich, now there's the real difference.

I would expect jerks to like Brutus and his sheep to crap again and again on the weak, down trodden, and the working poor. He and his type of godless. Therefore that's the best you can expect from his type.

Aug 27, 2013 9:57AM
Maybe Brutus didn't know it, but the SuperRich think folks that actually WORK for a living are the real suckers. Also, the working poor are hardly the only one's getting government assistance. The SuperRich get it without even needing it. And that's the worst crime of all. But of course, old Brutus like's to keep the focus on the poor. That's because he's godless.
Aug 27, 2013 12:03PM

I have found, in my lifetime that money affects people in different ways.  People who  had parents that taught them morals and good manners were the least affected.  The most affected, in all ways, were the have not's that became millionaires with the New Society.  Teachers no longer concerned themselves with the correct English usage, the correct grammar and the elocution to speak in public with a normal speaking voice.  They ignore what is decent attire and they are afraid of their own children that they may be reported for not being "Hip".  Public behavior appears to be at an all time low and the girls that want to impress anyone seem to think that unless their skirts are half-way up to their asses that they are unattractive.  Why have we sunk so low??  It's easier than teaching and everyone seems to prefer the Thug language, or Black English to improving themselves.


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