Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do As I Say...

New research published in the journal Psychological Science (I read about it in Science Daily) suggests something you may already have suspected. (Don't most psychological studies do that?)

The rich and powerful are more judgmental when it comes to the ethical choices of the less powerful than they are for themselves.

"According to our research, power and influence can cause a severe disconnect between public judgment and private behavior, and as a result, the powerful are stricter in their judgment of others while being more lenient toward their own actions," said Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at the Kellogg School.

Through a series of five experiments, the researchers examined the impact of power on moral hypocrisy...In all cases, those assigned to high-power roles showed significant moral hypocrisy by more strictly judging others for speeding, dodging taxes and keeping a stolen bike, while finding it more acceptable to engage in these behaviors themselves...

In contrast, a fifth experiment demonstrated that people who don't feel personally entitled to their power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, which is a phenomenon the researchers dubbed "hypercrisy." The tendency to be harder on the self than on others also characterized the powerless in multiple studies.

"Ultimately, patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy perpetuate social inequality. The powerful impose rules and restraints on others while disregarding these restraints for themselves, whereas the powerless collaborate in reproducing social inequality because they don't feel the same entitlement," Galinsky concluded.
Photo credit: Steve Rhode / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0