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The Wealth Effect: It Ain't Pretty

(Photo: Refracted Moments™)

A fascinating Boston Globe article by Britt Peterson reviews the research on the far-reaching psychological effects of wealth. “Rich people have a harder time connecting with others, showing less empathy to the extent of dehumanizing those who are different from them,” writes Peterson. “They are less charitable and generous. They are less likely to help someone in trouble.”  Even more depressing: These traits are “developed,”  not “inherited.”

While money may not be the root of all evil, it can make people “insensitive” according to Kathleen Vohs, one of the researchers whose work was profiled in the article. “When people are reminded of money, they get better at pursing their personal goals,” she explains. “On the negative side, they become poor at interpersonal functioning. They’re not all that nice to be around. They’re not openly mean or disagreeable, but they can be insensitive.”  

Also discussed in the article: research from Michael Kraus, Paul Piff, and Dacher Keltner which finds that lower-status people are more compassionate. “If your world is more unpredictable and threatening, and the police are more likely to arrest you, and you’re more likely to go to schools that don’t have the right kinds of resources, you’re going to be more attuned to the context around you,” explains Keltner. “And if [lower-status people are] more attuned to the environment and they’re tracking other people, it turns out they’re more compassionate, too, even at the physiological level.”

(HT: The Monkey Cage)


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