Ever feel like some people can pick up on your emotions without you even saying a word? Well it may just be that this person’s ability to read emotions is related to their socioeconomic status.

According to a study published in the November issue of “Psychological Science,” people of lower socioeconomic status are better at reading emotions than those of high socieconomic status. Michael Kraus, co-author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at UCSF (Berkeley researchers also contributed), claims that the higher level of empathy amongst those of low socioeconomic status may be due to the fact that they rely on others for day-to-day activities rather than on money. Therefore it is more important for them to be perceptive of emotion.

“You can see how being empathic provides a better ability to respond to social threats,” Kraus told LiveScience. “It also gives you an opportunity to respond to social opportunities.”

So does this mean that all wealthy people are inevitably blasé? Definitely not, even if blasé is a really cool word. Since the study shows that inability to be perceptive to emotion is based on socioeconomic status, and not ingrained in their genes, it follows that these behaviors are changeable. Now comes the question of how exactly to change these behaviors, and make the richies more empathetic.

“Being empathic is one of the first steps to helping other people,” Kraus said. “One of the first things we’re really interested in is what can make wealthy people — affluent people the people with the largest capacity to give — what can make them empathic?”

Any ideas?

Image Source: Thomas Hawk under Creative Commons
Wealthy People Poorer at Reading Emotions? [DailyCal]
Money can’t buy you love — or social skills [The Christian Science Monitor]

Transparency said:
Dec 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm

True as evidenced by following. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.
A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Competent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left.
It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.
In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, Academic Senate, Cal. Alumni, financial donors, benefactors await the transformation.
The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way the senior management operates.

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