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The ‘Luxury Prime’: How Luxury Changes People

The findings are not so much surprising as illuminating. We expected a relationship between luxury and self-interests. However, self-interested behaviors are often conflated with those that do harm to others (e.g., selling low-quality products that might be harmful to consumers). Our second study to some extent clarifies the psychological dynamics that arise from luxury.

Luxury does not necessarily induce one to do harm to others, but simply causes one to be less concerned or considerate toward them.

… In the midst of the current global economic crisis, people are outraged by highly paid executives living in the lap of luxury while continuing to make self-serving decisions and ignoring the plight of others. To date, more than a year since the crisis started, despite much public outrage and threats to more strongly regulate the financial industry, there do not seem to be any substantive changes in their mindset. Bankers are still planning large bonuses for themselves.

One commonly proffered explanation is that these executives lack a moral compass, leading them to care only about themselves to the extent of hurting others. Our findings offer another perspective—the fact that these executives are surrounded by luxury did not help their decision-making to be more “other-oriented.” Yet their seemingly “immoral” decisions stem not so much from a real desire to hurt others but more from over self-indulgence.

Perhaps besides limiting the size of bonuses, limiting corporate excesses and luxuries might be a step toward getting executives to behave more responsibly.

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(H/T Simoleon Sense)