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Correlation between compassion and social status

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Does how much money you have determine how compassionate a person you are? Not exactly. But a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that there is some correlation between compassion and socioeconomic status. Graduate student Jennifer Stellar, who led the study, says they found interesting physiological differences between different socioeconomic groups.

Stellar:          Lower social class individuals showed greater decreases in heart rate, which is associated with sympathy and compassion, than the higher class individuals. So, that really was the first evidence that when you are faced with a specific situation where someone's suffering, we can actually tease apart differences based on social class.

Narrator:       To measure these physical responses, study participants were hooked up to a heart monitor while shown videos meant to elicit a compassionate response. Stellar stresses that it's not that those in higher social classes don't care, but rather they seem to have different responses, like those found between people of different cultures. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.