Friday, December 17, 2010

Upper class people show empathy 'deficit'

Rich people have no idea what you're thinking
MSNBC: Upper-class people are less adept at reading other people's emotions than their lower-class counterparts, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

In other words, if you're looking for a little empathy, you're more likely to get it from a poor person than a rich one... 'We found that people from a lower-class background -- in terms of occupation, status, education and income level -- performed better in terms of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotions that others are feeling,' said Michael Kraus, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral student in psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

In a series of studies, more than 300 upper- and lower-class people were asked to interpret the emotions of people in photos and of strangers during mock job interviews. In both cases, those with more education, money and self-defined social status weren't nearly as adept at figuring out if a person was angry, happy, anxious or upset as their lower-class colleagues.

Kraus says that's likely because people from lower-economic backgrounds may have to rely on others for help. 'You turn to people, it's an adaptive strategy,' he says. 'You develop this sort of heightened interdependence with other individuals as a way to deal with not having enough individual resources.'

Upper-class people, on the other hand, don't need to ask for help that often. 'One of the negative side effects of that is that they're less concerned and less perceptive of other people's needs and wishes. They show a deficit in empathic accuracy.'... Kraus admits the results he and his colleagues came up with 'scare us a little bit' but says the effects aren't permanent.

Psychological Science: A final experiment found that, when people were made to feel that they were at a lower social class than they actually were, they got better at reading emotions. This shows that 'it's not something ingrained in the individual,' Kraus says. 'It's the cultural context leading to these differences.' He says this work helps show that stereotypes about the classes are wrong... 'It's all about the social context the person lives in, and the specific challenges the person faces. If you can shift the context even temporarily, social class differences in any number of behaviors can be eliminated.'
Photo source incendiarymind.