Monday, August 15, 2011

The rich are different

Though economically privileged, people from upper-class backgrounds consistently display deficits in empathy, social engagement, generosity and sensitivity as compared to those from the lower classes. The rich are traditionally very self-obsessed and do not care for others they only care about their own happiness and health, says Dacher Keltner who is a top psychologist and social scientist. The study by the American psychologists was published in an article titled “Social Class as Culture” and The Convergence of Resources and Rank in the ‘social realm’. The money has made the rich even less empathetic and more selfish said Keltner. They do not have the time to help those less fortunate which means they believe they are better than everyone else.

Keltner has revealed that twelve separate studies measuring empathy in every way imaginable, social behaviour in every way and some work on compassion and it’s the same story here. The study discovered that people on lower income made much more eye contact with the person they were talking with and they nod their head more frequently showing that they are interested. “Lower class people just show more empathy, more pro-social behaviour, more compassion.” He also shed light on the fact that wealth, education, and prestige and a higher station in life has given the rich the freedom most people would love and they use that freedom to stay focused on themselves. Keltner’s findings where interesting and he said rich people looked to be more distracted, checking mobile phones, drawing, doodling and avoiding any direct eye contact. Another test studied responses to pictures of starving children. Sensors on those taking part recorded the response from the vagus nerve, which helps the brain handle emotional images.

Statistics Canada reports that while wealthier families donate more money to charity in absolute terms, those earning less money donate a higher percentage of their income. In 2007, donors with annual household incomes less than $20,000 gave an average 1.6 per cent of their pre-tax earnings to charity, compared to just 0.5 per cent for donors with household incomes topping $100,000. The divide is rooted in fundamental differences in thinking between the haves and have-nots. While lower-class upbringings encourage people to lean on others, ask for help when needed, and to offer help in return, Keltner says those raised in upper-class backgrounds are imbued with greater permission to "focus on the self" and consider their opportunities to have been earned.

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