“Wealth reduces compassion”—Scientific American

Is there a correlation between wealth and empathy? New studies say yes—but results may not be what you expect.

A recent article posted on Scientific American points to a series of studies conducted by Paul Piff and Dacher Kelter at Berkeley. The studies looked at whether social class (wealth, occupational prestige and education) influences how much people care about others. 

Findings included the following:

  • Luxury car drivers were more likely to cut off other motorists instead of waiting for their turn at an intersection.
  • Less affluent people are more likely to report feeling compassion towards others on a regular basis.
  • Wealthier people are more likely to agree with statements that greed is justified, beneficial, and morally defensible.

Why would wealth decrease compassion? Researchers had this to say:

(…) The answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused.

To read the entire article—How Wealth Reduces Compassion—click here

To listen to an episode of CBC's Tapestry—"Survival of the Kindest"—where Dacher Keltner discusses why humans are wired to be good (ensuring the survival of our species), click here.

05/04/12

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