The Asshole Effect

“While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything, the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. They are more likely to exhibit characteristics we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” – Paul Piff – Psychologist

It’s easy to see, at least in my industry, that the more money a client has…or thinks they have…the more likely they are going to want something for free. The more likely they aren’t just going to want it, but to demand it. The more likely they are to lay the ground work and plan ahead for the inevitable day they will demand it.

Premeditated entitlement as it were.

While it’s been a relatively obvious observation throughout the years, I certainly wasn’t aware that there were scientific studies proving it.

Enter Paul Piff.

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A US based Psychologist, Paul studies narcissism. In his 2014 study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, he found that upper class individuals tend to be more narcissistic and feel more entitled than their lower class peers. The study is significant in establishing a direct link between social class and deep-seated aspects of personality, and suggests that the study of the mind has an under appreciated role to play in examinations of the growing disparity between the rich and poor.

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Some highlights of Paul’s experiments:

– Monopoly players, one of whom gets to roll twice vs. once per turn and starts with twice as much money as their opponent, contribute their winning of the game to “their skill in selecting properties”, not that they moved twice as fast with twice as much money. 

– Observing over 500 cars entering an intersection the “higher end cars” were three times more likely not to yield to a pedestrian crossing the road.

In their laboratory, the richest students were more likely to consider “stealing or benefiting from things to which they were not entitled” than those from a middle-class or lower-class background.

– Those identifying themselves as wealthy were 10 times more likely to help themselves to a bowl of sweets…labeled as being for the kids in the lab next door…as their lower income counterparts.

– Paul found that, as a percentage of income, the wealthy (top 20%) spend half the amount of the lower income classes (lower 20%) on charitable causes, 1.3% vs 3.2%, respectively.


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Let’s make it clear that I don’t think all wealthy people are entitled. Not at all. I know many very kind, very generous, people who would be considered “wealthy”. And plenty of people will point to the poster children like Gates and Buffet and their generosity. That’s not real world, however. And…you know…science. 

Have you found this to be true in your world? Do Paul Piff’s findings confirm what you already see around you?

Comment below or shoot me an email.

See you on the journey…

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