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How socioeconomic status affects empathy

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today.  Emotional differences between the rich and the poor may be more than just in the eye of the beholder. A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that people in lower socio-economic classes are more attuned to the suffering of others, and quicker to express compassion than their upper-class counterparts.

Stellar:          Participants of the lower social class were noticing more distress in their partners, so they were picking up signals that the person was stressed, which is going to promote a compassionate response.

Narrator:       Graduate student Jennifer Stellar, who led the study, says it's not that the upper classes are coldhearted; they may just be less adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven't had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives.

Stellar:          It's just important to understand that differences in how we perceive our environments lead to important consequences for emotional responding. We have varieties of cultures and they create different responses and class may be its own culture. It appears that it has its own emotional profiles that people within the culture kind of have.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.