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Who Cheats?

A new study shows that the business leaders behind our nations' most unsettling corporate scandals have most likely cheated on tests and term papers in college as well.

Researcher Paul Piff says, "Our studies suggest that more positive attitudes toward greed and the pursuit of self-interest among upper-class individuals, in part, drive their tendencies toward increased unethical behavior."

The relevant word here might be "college:" Other research reveals that relative to the lower class, upper-class individuals are more likely to break the law while driving, more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, more likely to take valued goods from others, more likely to lie in a negotiation, more likely to cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and more likely to endorse unethical behavior at work.

Piff says, "The relative privilege and security enjoyed by upper-class individuals give rise to independence from others and a prioritization of the self and one's own welfare over the welfare of others--what we call 'greed.'

"This is likely to cause someone to be more inclined to break the rules in his or her favor, or to perceive themselves as, in a sense, being 'above the law.'"

When it comes to driving, his team found that "upper-class drivers" were significantly more likely to pursue their own self-interests and break the law while driving than were "lower-class drivers." In fact, drivers of higher-end automobiles were four times more likely to cut off other vehicles before waiting their turn at a busy, four-way intersection with stop signs on all sides. They were also more likely to drive through a crosswalk without yielding to a waiting pedestrian.

According to Piff, "Across all seven studies, the general pattern we find is that as a person's social class increases, his or her tendency to behave unethically also increases."

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