Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 


Social Class as Culture

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.’”

Wealthier people don’t have to rely on each other as much. This causes differences that show up in psychological studies. People from lower-class backgrounds are better at reading other people’s emotions. They’re more likely to act altruistically. “They give more and help more. If someone’s in need, they’ll respond,” Keltner says. When poor people see someone else suffering, they have a physiological response that is missing in people with more resources. “What I think is really interesting about that is, it kind of shows there’s all this strength to the lower class identity: greater empathy, more altruism, and finer attunement to other people,” he says. Of course, there are also costs to being lower-class. Health studies have found that lower-class people have more anxiety and depression and are less physically healthy.

Upper-class people are different, Keltner says. “What wealth and education and prestige and a higher station in life gives you is the freedom to focus on the self.” In psychology experiments, wealthier people don’t read other people’s emotions as well. They hoard resources and are less generous than they could be.

One implication of this, Keltner says, is that’s unreasonable to structure a society on the hope that rich people will help those less fortunate. “One clear policy implication is, the idea of nobless oblige or trickle-down economics, certain versions of it, is bull,” Keltner says. “Our data say you cannot rely on the wealthy to give back. The ‘thousand points of light’—this rise of compassion in the wealthy to fix all the problems of society—is improbable, psychologically.”

The ability to rise in class is the great promise of the American Dream. But studies have found that, as people rise in the classes, they become less empathetic. Studies have also found that as people rise in wealth, they become happier—but not as much as you’d expect. “I think one of the reasons why is the human psyche stops feeling the need to connect and be closer to others, and we know that’s one of the greatest sources of happiness science can study,” Keltner says.

For more information about this study, please contact: Dacher Keltner at

Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of "Social Class as Culture: The Convergence of Resources and Rank in the Social Realm," please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or

Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Thickness of grey matter predicts ability to recognize faces and objects
10.11.2015 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Intergenerational cohesion in Europe is strong
04.11.2015 | Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, München

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Follow Me: Forscher der Jacobs University steuern Unterwasser-Roboter erstmals durch Zeichensprache

Normalerweise werden Unterwasser-Roboter über lange Kabel von Booten oder von Land aus gesteuert. Forschern der Jacobs University in Bremen ist nun ein Durchbruch in der Mensch-Maschine-Kommunikation gelungen: Erstmals konnten sie einen Unterwasser-Roboter mit Hilfe von Gesten navigieren. Eine spezielle Kamera half dabei, die Zeichensprache in Befehle umzusetzen. Die Feldtests fanden im Rahmen des EU-geförderten Projektes CADDY „Cognitive Autonomous Diving buddy“ statt.

Archäologische Untersuchungen im Ozean und vergleichbare komplexe Forschungsprojekte unter Wasser sind auf die Unterstützung von Robotern angewiesen, um in...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser-Prozesssimulation erstmals auch als App verfügbar

Die Simulation von Prozessen bei der Lasermaterialbearbeitung ist in den letzten Jahren immer besser geworden. Die Software kann heute relativ gut voraussagen, was am Werkstück passiert. Leider ist sie hochkomplex und erfordert viel Rechenzeit. Durch eine clevere Vereinfachung können Experten vom Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT erstmals eine Simulationssoftware anbieten, die Prozesse in Echtzeit rechnet und auch auf Tablets oder Smartphones läuft. Mit der schnellen Software lassen sich teure Versuche einsparen und noch besser optimale Prozessparameter finden.

Eine verlässliche Simulation von Laserprozessen war bislang eine Sache für Experten. Mit ausgefeilten Software-Paketen und viel Zeit auf Computerclustern...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantensimulation: Magnetismus besser verstehen

Heidelberger Physiker imitieren mit ultrakalten Atomen das Verhalten von Elektronen in einem Festkörper

Einen neuen Ansatz zur Erforschung des Phänomens Magnetismus haben Wissenschaftler der Universität Heidelberg entwickelt. Mithilfe von ultrakalten Atomen nahe...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>



im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics

Fraunhofer-Kongress »Urban Futures«: 2 Tage in der Stadt der Zukunft

25.11.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Internationale Mechatronik-Konferenz "REM2015" in Bochum

25.11.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Tagung über CFK-Bearbeitung geht in sechste Runde

25.11.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Eine neue Form von echtem Gold, fast so leicht wie Luft

25.11.2015 | Materialwissenschaften

Darmflora-Übertragung: Wie kommt die gesunde Darmflora in eine Kapsel?

25.11.2015 | Medizin Gesundheit

Science Fiction mit Physik überholen

25.11.2015 | Förderungen Preise