Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner along with a research team from the University of Toronto conducted seven experiments, two of which measured drivers' ethical behavior.
First, by using Kelly Blue Book data on the year, make and model, researchers were able to extrapolate which cars could be considered luxury or high class. This included the usual suspects, like newer BMW, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi models. Then, unsurprisingly, the researchers found higher-income earners tended to drive these cars.
"[W]e piloted the procedure and found that the relationship between a person's wealth and the value of the car they drive is very, very high." Piff said.
The first experiment measured how many drivers failed to yield at a four way stop. Data showed 12 percent of drivers cut fellow motorists off at the intersection, with 30 percent of high-end drivers failing to yield. In the second experiment, 46 percent of high status drivers failed to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk compared to 35 percent of a random sampling of drivers. Next time you're crossing the street and see a BMW heading your way, watch out.
So why is that? According to the study it isn't greed.
"Upper-class individuals' relative independence from others and increased privacy in their professions may provide fewer structural constraints and decreased perceptions of risk associated with committing unethical acts," the study read.
It seems those insulated cabins tune out more than just wind and road noise.