Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Do Rich People Have a Hard Time Reading Others' Emotions?

A new study published in Psychological Science by Michael Kraus, Stephane Cote, and Dacher Keltner finds that people from wealthier socioeconomic backgrounds tend to have lower emotional intelligence than those with lower socioeconomic status. In their study, these authors asked 300 people to interpret the emotional state of people in photographs and mock job interviews. Individuals of higher socioeconomic status fared quite poorly when trying to determine the emotions of the people that they were observing, as compared to those of lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

In this article on MSNBC's website, study co-author Michael Kraus offers his interpretation:

Kraus says that's likely because people from lower-economic backgrounds may have to rely on others for help. “You turn to people, it’s an adaptive strategy,” he says. “You develop this sort of heightened independence with other individuals as a way to deal with not having enough individual resources." Upper-class people, on the other hand, don’t need to ask for help that often. “One of the negative side effects of that is that they’re less concerned and less perceptive of other people’s needs and wishes. They show a deficit in empathic accuracy.”

On the Chief Learning Officer website, Dr. Casey Mulqueen, explains how these findings are consistent with other research: “This new study is consistent with other research showing that people in positions of leadership or influence often have performance blind spots or shortcomings in their ability to work effectively with others. Fortunately, emotional intelligence and interpersonal effectiveness skills can be learned and developed with practice.”

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