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

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Participants were then asked to rate their own and their partner's emotions during the interview, using terms such as amusement, anger, compassion, fear, happiness, hope, surprise and worry.

Students who rated their families as lower on the socioeconomic ladder were better able to gauge what their partners were feeling during the interview process, according to researchers.

In the final experiment, 81 students were randomly assigned to a rung on a ladder they were told represented their social class.

They were then shown photos portraying faces experiencing different emotions, including nervousness, hostility and playfulness.

Participants who were told they belonged to a lower social class judged the emotions more accurately than those told they were at the top of the social ladder.

"Being in a wealthy, affluent environment makes you less perceptive of others' emotions," Krauss said.

The study was published recently in Psychological Science.

Why might affluence breed insensitivity? Researchers theorize that lower class people generally have more at stake in reading people's emotions correctly and are therefore more attuned to other's feelings, whether it's reading the boss's mood or assessing threats in their environment.

"[Lower class people] need to be able to understand others' emotions better to see when potential threats are coming and when potential social opportunities are coming," Kraus said. "Upper class people have more resources and are more easily able to rely on themselves or hire people to do what needs to be done. When you are wealthy, your individual capacity is enhanced."

Sara Konrath, an assistant research professor at University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, said it makes sense that social class would impact social interactions -- and that those with relatively less power would pay more attention to how those with more power react as a means of self
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