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

-preservation.

"People from lower power groups are wise to vigilantly observe the facial expressions of those from high power groups, because if they don't, they are in trouble," Konrath said. "So, if a study finds that working class people, or women, or people of color, are better able to read others emotions than rich white men, should we be surprised? Not necessarily, since rich white men happen to control a lot of resources in our society."

Yet this greater ability might not mean they are more empathetic, since empathy means not only being able to understand another's perspective, but also to care about it.

"Empathy and emotional recognition may overlap at times, but not all the time," Konrath said.

And, she noted, being rich doesn't necessarily mean you're a Scrooge in the making.

"There are plenty of rich people who are empathic and poor people with low empathy. Research psychologists examine group averages, but sometimes these averages can mask the variation that naturally exists within groups."

More information

For more on empathy, go to Stanford University.

SOURCES: Michael Kraus, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, health psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Sara Konrath, Ph.D., assistant research professor, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Psychological Science


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