Harvard professor Roy Y.J Chua and London Business School assistant professor Xi Zou found that people who live luxuriously may be psychologically different than everyone else.
More specifically, people who drive around in town cars and zip across the country in private jets make selfish decisions that enable them to do so. They make decisions that best benefit themselves and don't consider others as much. Chua says this could be the reason so many high-paid executives, like those on Wall Street, act irresponsibly.
"People who were made to think about luxury prior to a decision-making task have a higher tendency to endorse self-interested decisions that might potentially harm others," Chua and Zou wrote in their February 2010 paper, "The Devil Wears Prada? Effects of Exposure to Luxury Goods on Cognition and Decision Making."
Or, in Chua and Zou's words:
This paper demonstrates that mere exposure to luxury goods increases individuals’ propensity to prioritize self-interests over others’ interests, influencing the decisions they make. Experiment 1 found that participants primed with luxury goods were more likely than those primed with non-luxury goods to endorse business decisions that benefit themselves but could potentially harm others. Using a word recognition task, Experiment 2 further demonstrates that exposure to luxury is likely to activate self-interest but not necessarily the
tendency to harm others. Implications of these findings were discussed.
So, one might wonder why and how folk exposed to the lap of luxury develop compassion, because clearly some do. It's the whole Buddha narrative you know. Perhaps exposure to the inevitability of suffering and death is indeed the trigger. It'd be an interesting follow-up experiment, no? That would be what I would call doing research into the link between Buddhism and human behavior.