The fatter the cat, the meaner the man?

People who are exposed to luxury will put their own interests over others when it comes to making decisions. That’s the conclusion of ‘The Devil Wears Prada?’ report which looks at the psychological effects of luxury on decision-making. (And, of course, fat cats can be men and women. No bias here, folks.)

It’s the work of two professors, from London Business School and Harvard Business School. They¬† wondered, for example, if the decisions businesses make are different if meetings are held in five-star hotels or in modest conference rooms. Or if CEOs who ‘bequeath themselves luxurious corporate jets’ make different business decisions to those who do not.

In their experiments, the profs asked students to evaluate products. One group were shown and asked to look at luxury products; the other were given cheaper equivalents. Then they were asked to imagine they were the CEOs of companies and were given business-related decisions to make.

The results were revealing. One question was about whether to manufacture a new car that would make a lot of profit, but would pollute the environment a lot. Another question was about launching software full of bugs.

It seems that the ‘luxury-primed group’ were more likely to make decisions that were based on self-interest¬† and were less likely to consider the needs of others. So, you sell the car, but you don’t give a damn about the environment. Or you promote the software and forget the bugs.

To be clear, the profs weren’t suggesting that luxury turns people inherently nasty, just that they’re less likely to be considerate of others. As the profs say, ‘Limiting corporate excesses and luxuries might be a step toward getting executives to behave more responsibly toward society.’

Doesn’t it make sense, then, that limiting excesses, keeping an eye out for possible bad decisions, would lead to happier customers (since they’re just people) and a healthier company in the long run?

If you’d like to find out more, read the report here

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