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Empathy Articles By Topic >  Study: Having less, giving more. The influence of social class on Empathy

A research study at UC Berkeley about how the poor have more empathy than the rich.

2010-11-00 - Original Study Article: Having less, giving more: The influence of social class on prosocial behavior.
In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 99(5), Nov 2010, 771-784.

2010-02-18 - Psychological Science:  Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy
Recent research suggests that lower-class individuals favor explanations of personal and political outcomes that are oriented to features of the external environment. We extended this work by testing the hypothesis that, as a result, individuals of a lower social class are more empathically accurate in judging the emotions of other people.

Authors of the Study:

Michael W. Kraus - Noblesse Oblige? Empathy, Compassion, and Social Class in America



Articles/Videos Based on this Study
Google Article Search List

2010-12-30 - As for Empathy, the Haves Have Not - NYTimes
ARE the upper classes really indifferent to the hopes, fears and miseries of ordinary folk? Or is it that they just don’t understand their less privileged peers?


2010-12-30 -
Radio - Class & Emotion  
Host: Michael Krasny

People in the upper-class are worse than their peers at identifying the emotions of others, according to a new study by University of California researchers. We'll find out about the study and discuss the latest research on emotion and social interaction. Guests:
 - Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and co-founder of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley
-  Michael Kraus, postdoctoral fellow in health psychology at the University of California, San Francisco

  • About the study - social class and behavior

  • About the methodology

    • societal measurements of class

    • personal sense of your class

  • poor are more generous, egalitarian,  polite

  • rich more impolite, disengaged - less empathy

    • not needing other people

  • how do you measure compassion?

    • body posture

    • measure body measures

  • 7:00 Social interaction

    • different cultures

    • dependence increases generosity

  • 7:50 Rank, power, hierarchy

    • lower rank is more dependent - more empathy

  • 9:20 Emotional Intelligence? Goleman

    • emphatic accuracy

    • most important quality

    • charm?

    • more aggression from upper class if challenged?

    • treats to hierarchies

  • 12:30 pathologies

    • lower class more vulnerable to problems

  • 13:30 leisure activities

    • Independent behaviors with technologies

    • wealthy people in cocoon - social clubs, schools, etc.

    • ranking of social class

  • 16:00 generalizations

    • class affects emotions

    • contagiousness of emotions - lower class more sensitive

    • poor moving into upper class and the effects

  • 19:30 self centeredness

    • lower class has more unstable environment

      • more divorce

  •  24:30 Audience questions

    • Empathy in-group vrs, out-group?

    • Grew up poor, became professional, good at empathy. How to fit into class?

      • complexity of social class

    • How to define class? why only money the focal point?

      • it's a context, rank

    • Parents rank?

    • Exceptions to the rule? personality, religion

      • upper class can express their core nature more intensely

    • 35:50 Low class is more busybody?

    • Rich protecting themselves from greed of the poor?

    • Climbing business ladder people become less emotionally intelligent?

      • stressors

      • suppressing emotions so you can focus

    • 38:00 As artist where in class structure?

      • artists from lower class, deprivation, my be more empathic

      • emotional intelligence

    • 40:20 Birth order?

      • later born more empathic

    • 41:20 Political membership?

      • control for religious ideology

      • social class and moral ideology

      • as you rise in class you start to support selfish ideologies

    • Rich that feel they are empathic?

      • some rich are defensive

      • people don't know that they are being less empathic

      • people don't know they're less empathic - it's the context that makes you less empathic

      • not your biology

    • 44:00 Some rich very empathic, some cruel to lower class

      • wealth and upper strata allows your personality propensities to express strongly

    • 45:00 Gender based factors?

      • effects for gender are less than most think

    • Cultural differences? Asians?

    • 46:00 Being less empathetic drives one to be rich? a competitive advantage?

      • health issues - lower class harms health

    • Rich should put themselves together with others?

    • 49:30 Being lower class in upper class environment?

      • ranking - stress

Rich People Have Less Empathy – Study

Time: The Rich Are Different: More Money, Less Empathy

Looking for empathy and support? You're more likely to get it from a poor person than you are from a rich one, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

2010-12-17 - Boggspot: Upper class people show empathy 'deficit'
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

The Economist: The rich are different from you and me, They are more selfish
Experiments by Paul Piff and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, reported this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest precisely the opposite. It is the poor, not the rich, who are inclined to charity.

The New York Times: The Charitable-Giving Divide
This compassion deficit — the inability to empathetically relate to others’ needs — is perhaps not so surprising in a society that for decades has seen the experiential gap between the well-off and the poor (and even the middle class) significantly widen.

Audio - National  Public  Radio: Poor Are More Charitable Than The Wealthy
Mr. PIFF: Across these experiments, the main variable that we find that consistently explains this differential pattern of giving and helping and generosity among the upper and lower class is feelings of sensitivity and care for the welfare of other people and, essentially, the emotion that we call compassion. So it's really compassionate feelings that exist among the lower class that's seen to provoke these higher levels of altruism and generosity toward other people.

To Read Others' Emotions, It Helps to be Poor
Money can't buy you happiness — or social skills, apparently. A new study finds those who are poor are better at empathy than the wealthy. 
Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy
Michael W. Kraus,  Stéphane Côté, Dacher Keltner3

Greater Good Science Center: The Poor Give More
Piff and his colleagues argue that the poor may feel more compassion toward others because they are more connected to those around them, psychologically and socially. They are more dependent on other people to get by, for instance, and previous research has found that, perhaps as a result of that dependency, they display more empathy and are more attuned to other people’s body language than the rich. On the flip side, as people attain higher status, their ability to take others’ perspectives is diminished.

Greater Good Science Center: You Can’t Buy Empathy
“What our research is suggesting is that upper class people don’t have a lower capacity for empathy,” says Kraus. “They just pay less attention. And if you can put them in a situation where you get them to pay more attention, you can get some real empathy from people who are wealthy and affluent.”

To Read Others' Emotions: It Helps to be Poor
Money can't buy you happiness - or social skills, apparently. A new study finds those who are poor are better at empathy than the wealthy.

Suite101: Studies Show the Poor are More Empathetic
Paradoxically, individuals of lower socioeconomic status seem to have superior social and emotional skill.
Higher Education, Lower Empathy

Big Think: Study: More Privilege Means Less Empathy
Michael W. Kraus and his co-authors offer three experiments to back up their argument that upper-class people are less sensitive to others' feelings than are people of lower social class.

MyFox: Researchers Claim Upper-Class People Lack Empathy
Upper-class people have trouble recognizing the emotions of others, US researchers have claimed.

YahooNews: New study: Poor have more empathy than rich
"Being empathic is one of the first steps to helping other people," University of California researcher Michael Kraus told LiveScience. "One of the first things we're really interested in is what can make wealthy people -- affluent people, the people with the largest capacity to give -- what can make them empathic?"

NYPost: $$ can't buy you empathy
The rich don't much care how the little people feel. When upper-class people were pitted against lower-income folks, the wealthy were worse at reading others' emotions and were less empathetic, a new study shows. Why the rich are no good at empathy ... they don't need to be
People who are rich have trouble recognizing the emotions of others, a new study claims. The university research has found that those who are poorer are better at gauging how someone feels because they need to rely on other people more often, Why the rich are meaner than the poor
It may be startling to some that richer people are less generous – but the statistic tallies with psychological research..... Empathic emotions are central to compassionate and prosocial tendencies, and Kraus argues that these cognitive processes are necessary for survival; human beings who find themselves in a high-status position are more likely to believe that they can control their own destinies, able to use their power, authority or wealth independently to keep themselves safe and secure

2010-12-00 - Rich people have no idea what you're thinking
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 (just ask Bob Cratchit).

2010-12-17 - Huffingtonpost: Wealthy Have Difficulty Detecting Emotions: Study
"They're less concerned and less perceptive of other people's needs and wishes," said study co-author Michael Kraus, according to MSNBC. "They show a deficit in empathic accuracy.