Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poor people are nicer

Poorer and less educated people are nicer, according to new research from University of California, San Francisco.

The studies found that the lower our socioeconomic status, the more charitable, generous, trusting and helpful we become. In interaction with strangers, poorer people were consistently more likely to use polite, attentive, respectful gestures. They showed greater empathy than the richer, better-educated counterparts.

Researchers explain this with that people who are in a high-status position are more likely to believe that they can control their own destiny, use their power, authority or wealth independently, and keep themselves safe and secure. Those further down in the social pecking order are more vulnerable, and therefore more likely to need to co-operate to survive (presented in The Week).

Other studies have showed that it´s the poor, not the rich, who are inclined to charity, and generosity increased as participants´assessment of their own status fell.
Those who rated temselves at the bottom of the ladder gave away 44% more of their credits than those who put their crosses at the top, even when the effects of age, sex, ethnicity and religiousness had been accounted for.
Upper-class participantts said 2.1% of incomes should be donated. Lower-class individuals felt that 5.6% was the appropriate slice.  Upper-class participants who were induced to believe they were lower class suggested 3.1%. And lower-class individuals who had been ”psychologically promoted” thought 3.3% was about right.
People who were shown a compassion-inducing video behaved in a more sympathetic way than those shown emotionally neutral footage.  That suggests the rich are capable of compassion, if somebody reminds them, but do not show it spontaneously.
Where are you on the ladder? Are you rich, in a top job... and slightly arrogant? Do you think people below you have themselves to blame, and just need to 'toughen up'? This might be psychologically logical - and proven - but if it is the case, please re-think. I must admit I was like that back in Sweden when I was successful, work kept flooding in and I got lots of recognition. A change of country certainly changed things, having to re-build a network, start on the bottom and be less fortunate. Hmm.
In hindsight I am incredibly grateful for this, since it broadened my insights about humans and made me humble. I don´t take things for granted anymore, I realise success is a matter of circumstances and that anyone who is a boss one day can be the junior the other. Just like anyone who is married one day can be the 'poor single' the other, and anyone who is healthy today can be sick tomorrow.
I wish than more people could get this experience, and I suggest that no-one should be promoted to a leader unless they have tried various industries and places on the social scale. Leaders with narrow minds will get narrow results. Those who are comfortably surrounded by the culture they grew up (or always worked in) in will never truly understand other humans. Challenge yourself, put yourself at risk, fly away. Have faith.

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