Study says the rich are less empathetic than the poor

If you have been following the political debate in Washington and Iowa, you might already have arrived at the same conclusion as a study featured in The New York Times.

According to a paper by three psychological researchers — Michael W. Kraus, at the University of California, San Francisco; Stéphane Côté, at the University of Toronto; and Dacher Keltner, the University of California, Berkeley — members of the upper class are less adept at reading emotions.

Research on psychological effects of social status is recent in this country, where the mere mention of class can set off Marxism alarms. “Only in the last seven or eight years have we tried to capture all the nuances of differences between the ways the rich and the poor experience the world psychologically,” Dr. Keltner said. “It’s a really new science.”

Now some might argue that class warfare–declared by the rich against he poor, in the guise of defending our liberties from government interference–is is well underway, and that the results suggest that the aggressors are winning. But what of the science involved in this study? Is it persuasive, and if so, what conclusions can we draw from it.

“Upper-class people, in spite of all their advantages, suffer empathy deficits,” Dr. Keltner said. “And there are enormous consequences.” In other words, a high-powered lawyer or chief executive, ill equipped to pick up on more-subtle emotions, doesn’t make for a sympathetic boss.

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