Thinking that poor people are more likely to cheat and care less about others is easier, right? Whereas, rich people are likely to be more caring and empathetic? After all, those who already have enough for themselves are more likely to care about other people’s needs.
If you have held the above-mentioned notion for a while now, we regret to inform you that you have been mistaken. It has now been scientifically proven that rich people are in fact, quite the opposite.
Research conducted at the University of California at Berkeley by psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner has proved that as people tend to climb the social ladder with monetary power, their empathetic feelings towards people begin to decline.
Do The Rich Really Care Less?
To determine whether social status (as indicated by money, education, and wealth) determines our level of care towards other people or not, Piff and Keltner secretly observed the behaviors of drivers at a busy four-way intersection.
They observed that people who drove luxury cars were more likely to speed past other motorists instead of waiting for their turn to move. This behavior was constant irrespective of factors like age, gender, time of the day, and traffic levels.
A separate study found that luxury car drivers are more prone to speeding past pedestrians using crosswalks, even after they make eye contact with them. E
xplaining why such behavior persists among well-off people, researchers have said that this might be because wealth and abundance instill a sense of freedom in a person. The wealthier they are, the less they tend to care about other people’s problems and feelings.
How Are Being Rich And Less Empathetic Related?
Research published in the journal Psychological Science has discovered that people from the lower-income strata are better readers of facial expressions, a crucial indicator of empathy, than their rich counterparts. A study by Keltner and his colleagues has affirmed the same.
In the study, randomly chosen individuals were asked to watch two separate videos, one of someone explaining how to build a patio and another one of kids suffering from cancer. Post watching the videos, the viewers expressed how much empathy they felt towards either of the videos.
The social status of the people was determined by asking them questions about their wealth and education. Observations revealed that individuals belonging to the lower economic strata reacted increasingly empathetic while watching the video of cancer patients.
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Their heart rates were monitored which revealed that it had slowed down while watching the video, a bodily response when a person pays uninterrupted attention towards someone or something.
This sits on top of the several types of research that have discovered that rich people are less likely to recognize people’s emotions. Being on the top of the social ladder limits them from interacting with people who have faced hardships in life. This bars their ability to read people’s emotions and causes them to be less empathetic.
“The rich tend to gloss over the way family connections, money and education contribute to their lives, resulting in less empathy,” Keltner told MSNBC. While the rich can be less empathetic, they can excel at being judgemental.
Are The Rich Really More Judgemental?
A study by Dr. Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine published in the journal Emotion states that “wealthier individuals tend to experience more positive emotions focused on themselves.”
A study was conducted among 1500 Americans with various household incomes where they were asked to highlight their underlying emotions that fuelled their happiness, like pride, joy, compassion, etc.
It concluded that when rich people felt happiness, it was backed by self-oriented emotions like pride or contentment. Another study concluded that rich people are more likely to have narcissist qualities.
These are based on the observation that the more the rich are self-centered, the more likely they are to think lowly of others. This feeling of undermining people from lower strata can lead the wealthy towards judging them on various levels.
These emotions, when combined, give the rich people a sense of superiority over others that more often than others limits their moral judgment and has been often linked with hazardous outcomes like the greater tendency of addiction and troubled children.
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