A penny for your empathetic thoughts
Published: Saturday, October 8, 2011
Updated: Sunday, October 9, 2011 16:10
"In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme." — Aristotle
Words well-spoken by a great philosopher, but what do they really mean?
Is there that much of a difference between the more affluent of society, and those who are not?
New research shows that rich people are less empathetic than the poor, so if you're looking for support and sympathy you may want to pursue other avenues.
According to new research published in Psychological Science, empathy is not a trademark found in rich people, compared to the "underprivileged." The poor seem extra compassionate.
Now, immediately you're asking yourself, which category am I? Actually, stop right there. I'll help you out. You're poor.
Don't believe me? Ask anybody the question: who is the world's richest man in the world? And most likely they'll reply with the standard answer: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Well, not anymore.
In February 2011, Forbes Magazine released its list of the world's wealthiest billionaires. Gates is no longer the No. 1 contender; the title now belongs to Mexican businessman Carlos Slim.
Furthermore, he's one of those self-made billionaires; his estimated worth is $74 billion. So yes, if you're still struggling with my early question, which category are you? Trust me, you are poor.
Michael W. Kraus of the University of California, San Francisco, and Dacher Keltner and Paul K. Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, were the co-authors for the article published in Psychological Science.
One of the interesting developments in the study pertained to identification and attunement.
Poor people are less judgmental, and seem to have sensors for reading human emotions compared to the opulent.
"The lives of the poor are ‘defined by threat,'" Keltner said. "Without education and resources, people are forced to cooperate with others and build alliances. As a result, people with less money are better at reading other people's emotions and more likely to act altruistically."
Kraus, a postdoctoral student, claims these differences are environmentally founded; if you are rich, your outlook consists of yourself, and if you are poor, you're aware of others' needs.
Personally, I summarize all that jargon as the "me, myself and I" syndrome for the rich. And as for the poor, "my life sucks, but yours is worse, how can I help." Laugh you may, but it is a reality.
In fairness to those who are wealthy, I have my own doctrine on empathy. I care not that you have achieved more financially, but I'm envious. I care not that opportunity knocked on your door while I tripped on the carpet.
If you made your billions on your own merit, I applaud you. If you made your billions off other people's sweat, blood and tears, then that just screams volumes about your character.