Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why the rich 'are such a selfish, less empathetic and less altruistic lot'

Paul Thompson
11th August 2011

Few people have much sympathy for the rich who have lost millions in the latest share price crash.

But then a new study has revealed the wealthy are unlikely to be to bothered about those who are struggling to make ends meet.

According to psychologist and social scientist Dacher Keltner the rich are usually self-obsessed and only worried about their own well being.

Keltner said they were 'less empathetic, less altruistic and generally more selfish' as a result of having so much money.

It's all about them: Wealthier people are more interested in themselves and check their phones more in group situations, the study found

He said they have an 'ideology of self interest' and more likely to think about themselves whereas those less well off were more likely to help others.

'We have now done 12 separate studies measuring empathy in every way imaginable, social behaviour in every way, and some work on compassion and it’s the same story,' he said.

'Lower class people just show more empathy, more prosocial behavior, more compassion, no matter how you look at it.'

Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, said the rich tend to stay focused on themselves.

He said wealth, education and prestige and a higher station in life gave them the freedom to only worry about themselves.

To prove his point Keltner video recorded various groups of people in conversation.

He said rich people appeared more distracted, checking mobile phones, doodling and avoiding eye contact.

The study showed that people of a lower class had more empathy and compassion to others than those who were richer

Those on lower income made eye contact with the person they were talking with and nod their heads more frequently signaling they were interested in what was being said.

In another test Keltner studied the response of rich people and those on lower income to pictures of starving children from Africa.

Sensors attached to their chest were able to record the response from the vagus nerve which helps the brain record and respond to emotional images.

He said those test subjects from lower income had more intense activation.

The psychologist also used data from getting 115 from people play what is called the 'dictator game'.

Those involved were paired with an unseen partner, given ten 'points' that represented money, and told they could share as many or as few of the points with the partner as they desired.

Lower-class participants gave more away even after controlling for gender, age or ethnicity.

The American psychologists findings were published in an article called 'Social Class as Culture: The Convergence of Resources and Rank in the Social Realm,' and published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

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