Social class is more than just how much money you have. It’s also the clothes you wear, the music you like, the school you go to — and has a strong influence on how you interact with others, according to the authors of a new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
People from lower classes have fundamentally different ways of thinking about the world than people in upper classes — a fact that should figure into debates on public policy, according to the authors.”Americans, although this is shifting a bit, kind of think class is irrelevant,” says Dacher Keltner of the University of California-Berkeley, who cowrote the article with Michael W. Kraus of UC-San Francisco and Paul K. Piff of UC-Berkeley. “I think our studies are saying the opposite: This is a profound part of who we are.”
People who come from a lower-class background have to depend more on other people. “If you don’t have resources and education, you really adapt to the environment, which is more threatening, by turning to other people,” Keltner says. “People who grow up in lower-class neighborhoods, as I did, will say,’ There’s always someone there who will take you somewhere, or watch your kid. You’ve just got to lean on people.’”
[Keltner] points to his own research and that of others. For example, lower class subjects are better at deciphering the emotions of people in photographs than are rich people.
In video recordings of conversations, rich people are more likely to appear distracted, checking cell phones, doodling, avoiding eye contact, while low-income people make eye contact and nod their heads more frequently signaling engagement.
In one test, for example, Keltner and other colleagues had 115 people play the “dictator game,” a standard trial of economic behavior. “Dictators” 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 even after controlling for gender, age or ethnicity…
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