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Maybe Scrooge Couldn't Help Being Hard-Hearted
Date:12/24/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Hard-hearted Scrooge may not have been able to help being so mean.

That's because affluent people, despite their generally higher level of education, are less able to read the emotions of others, a new study suggests.

Researchers conducted three experiments designed to test how well participants could judge how others were feeling. In all, participants who considered themselves of a relatively lower social class more accurately gauged the emotional responses of others.

The differences were small, noted study author Michael Kraus, a postdoctoral fellow in health psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. But they're enough to suggest that the wealthy could use a few lessons in empathy.

"What we find is people who were of a lower class and people who have lower educational attainment are better able to read emotions than more affluent people," Kraus said.

In the first experiment, researchers asked 200 adults who worked in a range of jobs at a university to identify emotions in photographs of human faces.

Women judged emotions more accurately than men, as did people whose personalities were rated as "agreeable," according to a personality test. Those whose education stopped at high school were also better at guessing emotions than the college educated.

In the second experiment, researchers asked 106 university students to take part, two at a time, in a mock job interview. Interviewees were asked questions such as "What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"

Participants were also asked to rate their family's social class on a ladder that had 10 rungs, with "those who are the best off, have the most education, most money and most respected jobs" at the top and "those who are the worst off, have the least education, least money, and the least respected job or no job
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