One might imagine that the poor feel more entitled to wealth because of their plight, but a new study suggests just the opposite—that it is actually the rich who feel that way.
And it’s not just a matter of money, according to University of California at Berkeley psychology professor Paul Piff, who says people’s egos also swell as they get wealthier.
“The more you have, the more deserving of good things in life you feel, and also the more narcissistic you are, the more likely you are to think things like, ‘If I ruled the world, it would be a better place,’” he says.
Piff’s research report, Wealth and the Inflated Self: Class, Entitlement, and Narcissism, published online August 20 in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concluded that the rich generally feel more deserving, important, unique, omnipotent and infallible than others.
The narcissistic tendencies observed in upper-class people included a greater likelihood to look at themselves in a mirror, according to Piff’s study. “Vanity is a big piece of narcissism,” he said. “Wealthier people are more likely to look at their reflections.”
But not everyone agrees with the results.
“In terms of the wealthy, I think it’s an overreach to say that these people are narcissists,” said Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think. “There’s probably a fine line between high self-esteem, high self-confidence, high self-worth and narcissism, but I don’t think they cross it very often.”
Siebold, who has spent 29 years interviewing over 1,200 millionaires, thinks wealthy people who made their own money have self-esteem because they’ve earned it.
“They’ve actually done something with their lives that’s noteworthy, and they feel the self-confidence and the self-worth as a result,” he said. Of the self-made rich he interviews, Siebold says, “They feel good about themselves, and I think as a result of that, they do love to give back.”
A 2009 study by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University showed that about 98 percent of high-net-worth households gave to charity as opposed to approximately 65 percent of the overall U.S. population.