Study: Rich People Are Unfeeling Robots Devoid Of Compassion

Time to pity rich people! At least us poors have that capacity, whereas a new study says that the rich are less compassionate than the rest of us. Let’s all pause and feel bad for them for exactly one second. cites a study from the University of California, Berkeley that says the richer you are, the less compassionate you are. The study was published in a journal called Emotion, where psychologists researched the empathic capacities of a group of 300 college students. The group was picked for maximum economic diversity — based on their parents’ incomes, since being poor in college is like being a fish with gills.

Part of the experiment included subjects reporting how often they’re like, “I often notice people who need help,” among other assessments designed to catalog how and when subjects felt certain emotions.

When the numbers on these inventories were crunched, Stellar and her colleagues found no meaningful personality differences among the students that could be attributable to income except one: across the board, the lower the subjects’ family income, the higher their score on compassion.

Even after the extensive experiments, does a low score on a compassion scale really mean rich people are unfeeling robots who take baths in money? Maybe not, they just might not have experience observing and reacting to hardship in others, which explains the phenomenon of rich kids joining up with the Peace Corps and other institutions to get a taste of the real world.

Got Money? Then You Might Lack Compassion [Time]


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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Can’t say I disagree – for some it is difficult to truly understand and empathize with the plight of the poor until you have been poor yourself.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      Perhaps every rich person should watch the educational documentary “Life Stinks“.

      Disclaimer: If I remember correctly, Life Stinks isn’t very good.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Then again, when you grow up poor and in a shitty neighborhood, it’s easy to become incredibly unsympathetic towards your former peers.

      • DariusC says:

        Agreed, this study is bullshit. Rich people are out of touch with their communities (the other part of the community) and may not realize the problems that affect other areas because they don’t frequent those areas. Also, because they don’t want to be burdened by problems that aren’t theirs. The rich simply existing is NOT the problem, it is their ACTIONS that are the problem (cutting wages, benefits, staff, etc).

        • cleek says:

          “The rich simply existing is NOT the problem, it is their ACTIONS that are the problem (cutting wages, benefits, staff, etc). “

          Not every “rich” person is in charge of hiring or firing. It’s quite possible to be very well off while still a being a leaf on the company tree.

    • Leksi Wit says:

      Steinbeck apparently already knew this when he wrote, “If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.” (“Grapes of Wraith”, which takes place in a similar American economic climate of depression).

  2. missy070203 says:

    for the rich kids who have never had to see or feel real hardship of any kind it’s no wonder they have less compassion…. I hate seeing rich young adults being ignorant to the world around them often acting as if their being rich was some accomplishment of their own when actually it was completely dependant on the wealth of their parents… maybe if they had to pay their own way through college and end up to their eye balls in student loan debt – having to work crap jobs and balance classes or have some kind of responsibility they might have more compassion for those unlike themselves- their is no accomplishment in having something handed to you – no real accomplishment is reserved for those who actually EARN it!

    • KitanaOR says:

      So many people I work(ed) with have had parents pay their college/house/wedding/car and then look at me in surprise with, “You’ve never been to Europe?” F-ers. No sorry, got bills to pay that my parents aren’t.

      • missy070203 says:

        exactly! I worked with a few girls my age and they were always going on cruises together twice a year and taking all these crazy weekend road trips at an insane cost…. they would invite me and I never went – they all either lived with their parents or their parents paid for their school, cars, etc. and had no responsibility…….. really come on??? with student loans, mortgage, and car payment – plus I had cancer last year so throw medical bills on the pile – there is no way in hell I can afford that and I have 3 jobs!

    • JennQPublic says:

      Most people who EARN it do so through the use of talents and attributes they had nothing to do with- like intelligence and attractiveness. We don’t control what gifts we start out with, and we don’t earn them.

      Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s…

  3. ARP says:

    Since it was based on PARENT’S income many of those wealthy students probably never experienced being poor. So, they think they deserve whatever they have. True, they could have been poor when they were younger, but that’s fairly unlikely, statistically speaking.

    I remember in high school, this rich girl threw a fit because she didn’t get the car she wanted for her 16th birthday. At first I was enraged, but over the years I’ve realized, that’s the only world she’s ever known and most likely her parents show love via things.

    Unless the parents went out of their way to teach their kids about those less fortunate, helping those in need, volunteering in a shelter, etc. they’d have no reason to care. Of course to, the “just world” group on these boards, you shouldn’t teach this anyway. All poor people are poor because they’re stupid and/or lazy, period.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Exactly, with dissimilar life experiences including going through economic hardship it would be perfectly normal to dissimilar results in a study or test.

  4. kobresia says:

    It took a study to reach this conclusion?

    I think what really warrants a study is why many impoverished people side with the wealthy and demand more favoritism for the rich as they blame the poor for their own plight. Is it Stockholm syndrome? Is it just extreme delusion that they’re preserving their future interests for when they win the lottery and are rich themselves?

    Anyway, Captain Obvious says that if you have lots of something and take it for granted such that you really can’t imagine life without it, whether it’s money, use of your hands, a car, or whatever…it’s harder for you to comprehend the challenges if you are without. Let them eat cake, etc. This is yet another study where the good Captain deserves credit.

    • ARP says:

      “I think what really warrants a study is why many impoverished people side with the wealthy and demand more favoritism for the rich as they blame the poor for their own plight.”

      Because we’ve been sold this idea that if you work hard or are very smart, you can get ahead in this world (or at least eke out a living). However, given the downward pressure on salaries, rising health care costs and education, greed, etc. that’s really not the case. True, there will always be the rags to riches stories, but those are fewer and further between. And the number of people are are able to “get by” is also declining. So when we get frustrated and ask why this happens, the rich tell us they need lower taxes, to get rid of unions, and fewer regulations. When we give them what they want and nothing meaningful happens, we’re told the same thing (less taxes, fewer regulations and then I’ll hire people, give them a raise, etc.). Maybe this time it will work (it never does).

      • hansolo247 says:

        I have 4 points to counter you. I’m not necessarily arguing against your position, but I think you need to see other dimensions on what it may mean to be fiscally conservative. Not everyone is just being “fooled by the rich”

        1. Big business loves regulation. It’s a real barrier to entry for competitors. You may be shocked that big business lobbies FOR regulation, too. So, in many ways the “left” has the wool pulled over their eyes just like the “right”. If you want to compare D vs R wall street contributions…prepare yourself for the truth.

        2. Regulation DOES reduce employment. Do you have any idea how much red tape there is for a small business to actually hire someone? it’s boggling. This does not mean I’m against labor laws per se, but there’s another side to it. Adding on more requirements (such as health reform) adds even more downward pressure on the incentive to add an employee. Just imagine a single-person business adding ONE employee…it’s HARD.

        3. Our debt-fueled economy is what is pushing up prices faster than wage increases. Careful who you blame here…you may very well find your candidate of choice has this as the core of their economic policy.

        4. Unions do good and do bad. The big ones, now, are more bad than good. The level of corruption in them is eye-popping, and their cozy relationship with the government should be a cause of concern.

        • ARP says:

          I (partially) agree with you on your points, in that, I think there’s a balance to be had. I think the idea of simply rolling back regulation or cutting regulations at all the Republican candidates have said they would do is worse.

          If Obama would actually follow through with his SOTU speech that says we should be looking to “smarter regulations” not always more regulations. Some countries are/have implemented “outcome based regulations.” Meaning rather than talk about what you can and can’t do, you should try to define what you’re trying to protect, offer some guidance on how and then leave it to the business owner to accomplish that. For example, some organic farms are out of compliance with USDA/FDA regulations even though their food safety standards a better than the factory farms because they don’t use the particular machine or process that the rule was trying to address in a factory farm.

          I agree that unions can be a positive or negative force. On the whole, I believe them to be positive and that our decline in wages is partially caused by the decline in union membership. Most people agree that unions do have some corruption issues. But again, the “wipe out all unions” or “unions are responsible for X business failing” is just wrong. Like large corporations, I think shareholder/member suits should be allowed more frequently. But to your point, the money influence on our government (from any source, but especially secret Super PAC money) is simply untenable.

          • hansolo247 says:

            Hey, I never argued for abolishing unions.

            My position is that ALL employees should be free to join unions and collectively bargain, and companies should honor their commitments in contracts to them.

            Where I start to deviate from the traditional leftist position is that the government should NOT get involved in labor disputes…at all. If there’s other people the company can use to do the work and those people want it, the company should be free to utilize them.

            If a union has a REAL leverage, due to scarcity or skills, then they have leverage and they can reach an amicable agreement. If they’re nothing special in the skills/scarcity area and can be replaced by other available labor, the government should not be CREATING leverage for them.

            What seems to be the case with unions (usually large ones…SEIU and UAW) is that there IS alternate labor sources that WANT TO WORK, and the government prevents it. We’re not talking child-labor or unsafe conditions here, either, so let’s not go down that (slippery) slope.

        • kobresia says:

          You’re pretty spot-on here– when we’re talking about businesses, I think it’s fair to say that they like regulation that stifles competition more than it hits their bottom line. That’s why they like regulations that enforce barriers to entry and things they already do, but hate regulations that would force them to be better corporate citizens.

          I want to say the biggest problem with debt is that it accelerates inflation. If the Federal government is allowing the Federal Reserve banks to set a prime rate that encourages borrowing in order to bail out the big investment banks and get more money circulating, I think all that accomplishes is that everyone’s money gets devalued and the problem gets compounded. Making debts worth less by driving-up everything else such as prices screws everyone over, and offers debtors only temporary relief.

        • RandomHookup says:

          I’m curious what red-tape is in the way of hiring someone?

          Fill out an I-9, a W-4, state withholding…boom, you’re hired. Yes, if you want some of the tax credits or are facing some of the mandatory health insurance requirements or if you are a federal contractor, that’s an extra level of work. But an average company shouldn’t be facing those (as near as I can tell).

          • hansolo247 says:

            With dedicated HR professionals, this is pretty easy.

            If you are a sole proprietor, adding that first employee falls into the HASSLE category when it comes to this stuff.

            What if every company were allowed to treat 3 NEW employees as contractors next year? Still following all FLSA laws…but the person HIRED must take care of all of what you mention. I think hiring may pick up, especially in the small business area.

            • RandomHookup says:

              The first employee — absolutely, that’s a learning experience to go from a sole proprietor to a small business. But once you have 5-10 people, those are 5 minute forms. If you offer benefits or want to take advantage of a tax credit for hiring the unemployed or veterans, then yes, that is a bit more work.

              I’m not sure that hiring people as contractors would eliminate much in terms of the hassle. Yes, you wouldn’t have to pay FICA, but you’d still need to track the person’s work in some form and set up to pay on a regular basis and issue a 1099 at the end of the year if the person made more than $600. By eliminating the I-9 requirement, you might find more illegally employed folks. And you would certainly see some employers use that to take advantage of workers who don’t qualify for workers comp, unemployment, etc.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I think you really didn’t get it. They quantified what you simply assumed with actual, measurable evidence.

      Bu go on never questioning your base-less assumptions.

      • kobresia says:

        The thing is, readily observable things don’t need to be proven, they need to be explained (proof of observation generally comes right along with the confirmation of the hypothetical explanation). People have been observing this very thing for thousands of years. Now if they were trying to research a theory as to the actual causes of such behavior, why yes, that might actually be beneficial and offer meaningful insight.

        It’s lazy, uncreative research, which is probably why it was published in a minor journal. I’m also extremely distrustful of survey-based research. It’s extremely subjective and breaks the 4th wall down, making the subjects somewhat aware of what the researcher is pursuing, thus tainting the results. That’s why quality research isn’t just based on handing out a relatively small sample set of surveys on the participants feelings and some demographic information in order to scrape-together evidence that supports the obvious assumption.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        The funny thing is, even with the studies, people ignore the conclusions, particularly when it comes to studies describing human behavior. People really don’t want to give up their biases when it comes their biases.

    • Snip says:

      This has been studied before. The general conclusion has always been that the poor don’t hate the rich because they want to join the rich. What people keep forgetting is that the rich don’t want us joining them. If we all joined them, who would be rich anymore? We’d all be the same.

      • mehitabel says:

        Many of the poor also have overoptimistic ideas about their chances of joining the rich. The “American dream” is available to all, right?

        Conservatives have also done a good job of demonizing poverty and making it a personal moral failing: i.e., the bad economy doesn’t matter, your disadvantaged upbringing doesn’t matter, discrimination doesn’t matter: f you’re poor, you must simply be a bad, unworthy person.

        In a great book The Working Poor, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Shipler does point out that many of the diverse poor people he interviewed made personal mistakes. But they were also trying very hard to succeed by playing by the rules, and the odds were totally stacked against them in all kinds of ways. He also pointed out that nearly every woman he had interviewed had been sexually abused as a child or young adult – the kind of violation that can undermine you for life.

        Conservatives are like selfish children, scared and grasping. As long as they get theirs everyone else can go to hell. They are also provincial idealists with their unyielding faith in a free market that plainly doesn’t work, and their penchant for simple answers to complex situations.

  5. AngryK9 says:

    I have no compassion for people who were born into money, who never had to lift a finger to earn it.

    I have compassion for people who have busted their ass and earned every penny they have. Doesn’t matter if they have one dollar or a billion. If they worked hard for it, then I applaud them.

    • missy070203 says:

      ditto!…. earning it is honorable

      • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

        Please! Winthorpe the third had to fight off his siblings, Buffy and Mortimer, to get that inheritance.

    • RandomHookup says:

      There is a point, probably before you hit a billion, where you are no longer busting your ass in the same way and it’s really your money that is working hard. The world of the rich tends to revolve around itself and protect its own.

    • ARP says:

      But what really happens is somewhere in between. Child born in middle-upper class family. Family gives them typical luxuries (car at 16, pays for college, helps to pay rent for a few years after their out, pays off their college credit card debt, keeps them on their health care or pays for it, etc). Child works in school (but not that hard) but really doesn’t have to have a job, since school, etc. is paid for. Dad uses business connections to help child get good job (or job they would not otherwise get) or family gives Child start-up money. Child succeeds.

      Did they earn it? Sort-of. They were given a HUGE step up, that most people don’t get.

      • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

        This is 100% true. Here in the comments there seems to be this notion that the wealthier folks never had to earn or have done little to earn it while the less-wealthy are downright destitute. This isn’t a binary problem. There’s very much a sliding scale that’s easy to ignore when the purpose of a lot of comments is to use hyperbole to make a very weak point.

        Personally, I’m not the 1% nor are my parents, but we are in no way, shape, or form representative of, nor are we represented by the 99%. My parents were poor growing up, earned their money through work, and are now very comfortable. I had a lot of luxuries growing up that my parents did not. I was afforded a lot of things they were not. I received a lot of financial help from them through my teens (of course, I was in high school) and early 20s. But I also went to college on a full scholarship and then served in the military. I am gainfully now employed earning a salary that is comparable to what my parents make. Did I have help? Heck yeah. But I wasn’t necessarily raised with a silver spoon in my mouth. As such, I don’t identify with either the 1% or the 99%.

      • jesusofcool says:

        Unfortunately, as someone who grew up lower middle class but went on scholarship to a high level private university full of uber-wealthy, entitled, disinterested students, I don’t find this study about their lack of compassion surprising. I remember being so shocked by their behavior toward the service staff at school (janitors, food service employees, etc).
        What’s really sad about our society today is that for the children of the very rich, like you’ve pointed out, it is a lot easier to enter and pay for the schools and universities, and land the jobs that will allow them to continue to be very rich (if they choose to work). It also keeps them within the same bubble socio-economic circle they grew up with if they so choose. The sad thing about this though is that as a society, we’re breeding a new generation of wealthy leaders more conceited and unable to understand or empathize with the rest of society than the last – and then we’re wondering why corporations, Congress and all other controlling institutions are doing nothing to fix the economic inequality in the country.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I hope you meant respect, because rich ‘old money’ people don’t need or want your compassion.

      I certainly don’t respect people born into money.

    • zibby says:

      Wait a minute…people that have a lot of money can get it by “working”? It’s weird, the last few years I’ve had it drilled into me that all rich people are simply “more fortunate” or “the most fortunate”. Always just dumb luck.

    • kc2idf says:

      I am reminded of someone I went to university with. He and I were not friends.

      He was going to SUNY because he had already screwed up at two private universities and was cordially invited by both never to cast his shadow on their campuses again.

      I was going to SUNY because I could afford it.

      He was getting lousy grades because he was a lazy screw-up.

      I was getting good grades by working my backside off.

      He was caught (by one of my friends, no less) creating a (poor-quality) counterfeit grade report.

      I was proud of my real grades.

      Why the counterfeit grade report?

      He was told that if he continued to get bad grades, his parents would take away his Porche and make him drive a Camaro.

      I got around on a clunky old bike that my friends called “The Juggernaut.”

      …and he had the unmitigated gall to lecture me about personal responsibility whenever politics came up.

      I don’t particularly wonder where he is today; I couldn’t care less.

  6. homehome says:

    I know the self made rich ppl, they don’t have pity because of how hard they had to work to get where they are and they consider most ppl lazy and always looking for a handout, which I agree with. I have one friend who was dirt poor, homeless and only had the clothes on his back and his cart. By 25 he was six figures and now very close to 7. He has no pity for poor ppl, especially ppl who grew up with more than what he had. Although he does make regular 4 figure donations to random charities several times a month.

    • little stripes says:

      Is it really that difficult to include the extra 4 letters you keep dropping in the word “people”? Talk about lazy.

    • pop top says:

      Yeah, like those lazy single moms and those lazy disable people and those lazy people who were born into a poor family with a crappy education system with no one that cares about them succeeding. PLEBES I SAY.

      • homehome says:

        Let’s ask why are they single moms. I grew up and know plenty of single moms, and they are that because they made horrible decisions and decided that birth control was unnecessary. Who’s fault is that? Are there some single moms that just had bad shit happen to em, yea, but let’s not act like that was the majority by any means. Girls getting pregnant because they knew if they had enough kids they wouldn’t have to work. If that’s not lazy, what is?

        • kc2idf says:

          Sure, but the counterpoint is that sometimes the best-intended plans fail. I know someone who is a single mother because she is divorced. As far as I can tell, she did most everything right, except for her choice of husband. He is supposed to pay child support, but cannot be counted on for it.

          • homehome says:

            I’m not saying every poor person or single mother is like that, but living around them for most of my life, I can comfortably say the majority are. This is not a smash on poor ppl post, this is a smash on lazy poor ppl post.

  7. kataisa says:

    I have to say that I’m not quite a fan of the media’s class war against the top 1%. Can we get back to focusing on how to make all of us better consumers, without hating on a particular class of people?

    • little stripes says:

      Yeah, there isn’t a class war against the top 1%; that war is against the bottom 99%, waged against the lazy, non-productive 1% who did not in any way work hard for their money.

      • little stripes says:

        ETA: I’m sure there are a rare few of the top 1% that actually worked hard to get their money without taking advantage of others, but they are rare.

      • George4478 says:

        A war waged by the lazy and non-productive? So what are all the noble poor worried about? That war will obviously have no effect due to lack of energy and interest on the part of the rich.

        • little stripes says:

          lazy and non-productive? really? sources, plz. or are you just using your bias against poor people as evidence?

          • PunditGuy says:

            Reading fail. Irony fail. Fail fail. Oh my god, this statement is so full of fail, I need a fail bucket to pick up the fail that’s spilling all over the fail.

    • dolemite says:

      Sure. Just tell my boss that instead of paying his employees minimum wage, he could step it up a bit, and that he doesn’t need to buy another parcel of land and athletic field this year. See the issue? I don’t hate the rich because they are rich. I hate them because they are hoarding their money and not paying their employees anything but chicken scratch, while profits are through the roof. How about spreading it around a bit? Who do you think made you those profits?

      • ChuckECheese says:

        My sister works for a medical practice of orthopedic surgeons. She hasn’t had a raise in 3 years. They are talking about getting rid of employee health insurance. She overhears them complaining about the cost of private tuition, BMWs and McMansion payments, and the docs hoard the holiday gifts that vendors bring to the office for themselves. The medical practice is doing better than ever, and added a 4th surgeon this year. I think this is the sort of 1% behavior people are tired of. Any claims that decreased taxes or regulations on the wealthy will create benefits for everybody else is the worst of lies.

        • dolemite says:

          What’s interesting is the owners of my company (who inherited it from their father), actually used to care about employees. They’d do employee dinners, go their weddings, etc. As the profits have risen, they’ve grown less caring. All they care about is the bottom line. Work hard for the least amount of money, and we are going to cut pay, benefits and everything in-between to juice the most profit out of it. If you don’t like it, hit the road.

    • zibby says:

      What, you’re not seeing the consumer angle in this item? Oh well, I suppose I only encourage them by commenting…

      It’s funny, 4 or 5 years ago Consumerist used to hate Wal-Mart shoppers.

  8. ancientone567 says:

    I would have to agree that in general rich people are less caring because they don’t get it because they don’t have the experience of hardship.

    • penuspenuspenus says:

      Or maybe there are some that went through the hardship and earned their place and don’t feel sorry for those who refuse to do the same.

    • ancientone567 says:

      I am from a rich family and they don’t help me at all even though I struggle with various illness. They pretty much just let me rot as do most people with money. The only help and support I get is from people in my boat and liberals for the most part. There are a few semi wealthy people that help but they are few and far between. I have lived this for the past 12 years so I do know because I live it. The rich are generally COLD and MEAN when it comes to cash.

  9. mrdeeno says:

    I can’t say for most rich or poor people, but personally (growing up poor, and working my azz off to at least be considered rich for my age) I can say I have compassion for the poor people who work hard to educate themselves and get ahead yet suffer sometimes from bad luck or that “perfect storm” against them, however I rarely see this keeping them down long.

    But then there are the poor people who spend like they have or make more money than me, and are constantly suffering from “bad luck” or “the man keeping them down.” I have very little compassion for them.

  10. Jane_Gage says:

    Thomas Frank cites a 2009 study in Psychological Science with identical findings, although he puts it in a social darwinian context. You don’t lack empathy because you’ve never been poor, you’re not poor because you’re willing to sell sub-prime loans and dick people.

    • Coffee says:

      I think it’s always been a correlation/causation cart/horse issue…I would argue that because this study uses young individuals from wealthy families as its subjects, however, that it implies that causation goes both ways. Sure, banker man who grew up poor and is now wealthy because of dicking over people is a dick, but what about his kids who share his values, but have never dicked anyone over themselves?

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Exactly, the rich are more likely to look at things as a “business decision”. What is business, the art of making money. A subprime loan is/was simply a way to make money.

      Actually gangsters rationalize their behavior as ‘just business’.

      Not boding well for capitalist.

  11. dilbert69 says:

    It’s pretty simple. If you want to be rich, keep most of the money you earn. If you give it away to people for whom you feel sympathy, you aren’t keeping it.

    • Snip says:

      This is it, right here. The rich don’t generally get that way by being nice people. I’m seeing a lot of comments to the effect that the rich are less compassionate because they just don’t understand. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I suspect the rich get richer BECAUSE they are less compassionate.

  12. dolemite says:

    So if the more power/money you have, the less compassion you have…well, that explains why God isn’t preventing the floods and famines. He just doesn’t give a shit.

    • Orrie says:

      The interesting studies I’ve read make it sound more like “the less compassion and empathy you have, the more success and cash you will get”. It’s not so much that being wealthy or successful makes you a dick — it’s that being a dick is an excellent survival strategy in our present environment.

      Isn’t that even more depressing of an idea?

  13. galm666 says:

    A study on this isn’t really needed. Hell, I have the same dynamic at home:

    I’m from a high/mid class family. My folks sent me to school and pretty much paid my way through, same with my brother. We didn’t need to take out a bunch of loans (we do have some) to make it through school. Both of us got cars to start college with – mine was a $13k starter, his was a used but new-ish truck. Mind you my parents did work and plan well so they didn’t just walk into their money. My mom’s family is all educated at least at the Bachelor’s level, and all of us have found success at some occupation.

    My spouse’s family is from rural Oklahoma, most of them don’t have high school diplomas in the previous generation, and her current generation is the first to pursue college. Her immediate family went homeless and was at/under the poverty level more than a few times, and right now, her being with me is really the best she’s ever had it and the least amount of worry she’s had with finances in her life – my yearly income is about $40k, and we live in Texas, so our cost of living isn’t super high.

    For me, I can’t fathom being homeless. I feel some level of compassion for those who don’t have it as well as I do, but not to the same level she does. Some of the things I get worked up about are definitely 1st-world problems. Hell, I don’t like the apartment we’re in now because the natural lighting isn’t ideal and some of the fixtures are over 20 years old. On the other hand, she’s happy that we have a safe place to stay, that we both have steady incomes and we’re in a place to put away money every month.

    It’s all in perception and perceptions are dictated by experience. If my spouse and I are that different with a $60-$80k difference in family incomes, how much more between billions, right?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Can you show me your data to prove your theory?

      No, but they can.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        That scientific study is based off questions asked of people who will reflect on their personal experience to answer. This guy just shared a personal experience that shows the difference in 2 people’s empathy and view of things based on financial security.

        The difference between the study and his example is academic framework, data reduction, and a well written analysis of the results. I’m not dogging this study, but I do agree it only proves something that many of us already know. Why are you ripping on him for sharing a real-life example of the truth in the study?

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      You can learn much from your spouse. This will keep you from being a dick when you are rich. (Not that you are now; just going off the “more money, more dickish” thing we got going here.)

  14. u1itn0w2day says:

    Philanthropy has to be taught to the richer especially simply because they’ve had a different life experiences including living where money and daily survival are not an issue.

    Also alot of ‘rich’ people are rich because they are dispassionate about things, many things that would anger poor people like poor working conditions in a foreign factory would be nothing but ‘a business decision’ for lower costs to the rich.

    Between a rich kid’s upbringing/lifestyle and the rich parents drive & attitude twards money & business the rich would most certainly have a different attitude twards things. This can easily be changed but this will always exist.

    I recently saw a 60 Minutes piece on Warren Buffet’s son and his philanthropy. That’s a perfect example of how to teach & practice philanthropy for a rich kid. What really caught my attention was that Buffet’s son realized you just can’t throw money at a problem either. Rather than just throwing modern expensive farm equipment at poor farmers he realized he needed to teach them methods and techniques those farmers could actually afford and had access to. It wasn’t just about throwing money & things at a problem. This attitude would actually serve many poor as well-what you actually can afford and have access to.

  15. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    This shouldn’t be news. Sociopaths have no problem screwing over everyone to get what they want; by definition they’re incapable of sympathy/empathy/compassion. Our society rewards this behavior.

  16. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I’m not terribly surprised by the results, though I’m surprised there isn’t a negative blip for those who grew up working class. I grew up lower middle class, then poor, and then working class and it’s been my observation that those who are on the edge have the least compassion to those who are less well off.

    Those on the edge, where they don’t make enough to be comfortable or stable, but too much for any kind of assistance (financial aid, health care, etc.), feel incredibly alienated and don’t have much sympathy for those at the bottom.

  17. MaytagRepairman says:

    Watched a documentary on Netflix. I think it was called “Born Rich”. It was narrated by a kid who inherited enough money to not need to work his entire life and he tried interviewing his friends and family who also didn’t need to work their entire life.

    Looking at some of the people in the film, they led me to believe they suffered border-line mental illness from not being able to foster relationships with any friends or significant others for fear they would loose their bank accounts.

    • kathygnome says:

      I think it’s The One Percent, the kid is the heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune. I found it fascinating. The family more or less acts like an old medieval noble family in that it’s as much a business unit linked by financial ties as it is any sort of family bound by emotional ties.

      • MaytagRepairman says:

        Yeah, “One Percent” was the sequel. Jamie Johnson (a Johnson & Johnson heir) directed both of them.

  18. BrightShopperGettingBrighter says:

    I went to an Ivy league school as a full scholarship student. Initially, I remember being overwhelmed with spite due to my peer’s luxuries. It wasn’t jealousy, as much as it was anger. Within weeks, I realized that I was self-confident based on my own merit, not society. I was there, I did that on my own.
    It’s easy to loft anger at the affluent, but the problems tied to wealth are not a picnic either. Beyond keeping up with the Jones, I saw a friend be decimated by their peer group because her father got replaced by a board. Full on abandonment by “life-long friends” because the adult-child could no longer hang in a high-spend world.
    Empathy is a two-way street. I couldn’t imagine how a young adult’s social network and idenity could be removed in a day, solely based on a fiscal decision made by a bunch of old white guys. I also knew a bunch of bright college students in serious doubt of their intellectual capabilities because of financial donations and alumni legacies.

    • ARP says:

      Well, if her father was replaced by a board, they probably deserve whatever misfortune came to them, as he had no skills other than being very still and holding things up.

      …I assume he was removed as a board member of a company, yes? Or did a group of people replace him?

  19. George4478 says:

    Did this study actually ask these questions to any rich people? The only people I see questioned are the children of rich people.

    By the same logic, rich people also like Abercrombie & Fitch, Coldplay, 24-hour Xbox360 marathons, cold pizza, and standing topless at college football games.

    The attitude of a 20-year old child is a very different beast from their parents who built one dry cleaner store into a 30-store chain of dry cleaners worth several million by working 80-hour weeks for 20 years. But since that the parents have money they MUST be evil, according to the accepted wisdom here.

    • halcyon22 says:

      Good point. Also, they only spoke to 300 students.

    • ARP says:

      I see your point, but it’s intended to measure a subset. Children of wealthy people probably haven’t had hard times- they’ve always known wealth. So they’re a good control group. Wealthy people themselves may have been born into it or may have earned it.

    • Optimus says:

      I wonder what the numbers were on religious affiliation (or lack thereof). Did they even ask?

  20. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    This should be renamed to “Study: Children of rich parents are less compassionate.” Although I don’t doubt many rich people became rich by being willing to screw others.

    • rooben says:

      actually, that is exactly how people get rich – look at it historically, most ols money is from screwing people.

  21. jsl4980 says:

    Wow misleading title. It should say “Kids of rich people are less empathetic.” Most people in college are not rich, but a lot of their parents are.

  22. Lisse24 says:

    Wow. People took these results and made a lot of unfounded logical leaps.

  23. comedian says:

    If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

    Dorothy Parker
    US author, humorist, poet, & wit (1893 – 1967)

    (I’m not religious, but I’ve always enjoyed this quote.)

  24. Wireless Joe says:

    Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

  25. HogwartsProfessor says:

    This describes my old boss’s wife. She grew up super-rich, married her cousin (way to keep the money in the family, LOL) and does NOT get how people struggle. She never worked a day in her life, really. She spent a lot of time while they were here running around LOOKING busy and sitting in on meetings where she (according to reports) would pipe up with the dumbest shit anyone ever said. Sooooo out of touch.

    And yet, like a lot of rich people, they will squeeze a dollar til it screams; he ran around turning lights off all the time (I do that too, actually, being too poor to pay high electric bills) and she told me they don’t have cable. If I had their money, I would have a GIANT TV and get all my satellite channels back, baby! Woo!

  26. I'm random, pick me! says:

    If being rich = less compassion, then the opposite should also hold true, right?
    Less compassion = laughing (at the less fortunate) all the way to the bank!

  27. TuxthePenguin says:

    Lets actually state what they found: The richer your parents are, the more of a heartless person you are. I know lots of my friends whose children are total assholes.

  28. gabrewer says:

    I’m not rich, but my wife and I have done okay in life — with a dual income and the necessity of both of us continuing to work in order to have a decent lifestyle. Having said that, I do think it is something sad in human nature — because I notice it in myself — in that the more distant you become from humble origins the more protective you become of what you attained and acquired — and for some reason view with disdain those who have not achieved as much. A couple of generations ago, my grandparents and other ancestors struggled to make a living in rural Appalachian. Yet I catch myself thinking of similar folks in those situations today as being “white trash” who just don’t want to do any better in life. As I drive home everyday through my “working middle-class” neighborhood, I become annoyed at those houses where there are mulitple cars parked out front and the yard hasn’t been properly tended to in years. But wait, that’s how my house was when I was growing up. My father was too busy trying to provide a living for his family to worry too much about proper landscaping. And all the cars were used one, bought by us kids with our own money as we began to work in the summers, after school, etc. — actually sort of source of pride. Anyway this is rambling; I just know that personally it does me good to be reminded of where I come from now and then.

  29. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I don’t have too much experience interacting with rich people, as I am a poor rural person, so it’s not like I run in the same social circles. The few times in my life that I’ve had to interact with them (usually at a work function), I always felt out of place and out of touch. I simply have nothing in common with them. Once I had to go to a fancy dinner (work function, again) and had no idea which utensil to use in what order. I was mortified. I was taught to use a knife, fork, and spoon, and once in a while we’d use a soup spoon, but that’s it. I felt like I was being judged on my table manners.

    I can see where these people would have no concept that there could be hungry or needy people around them. They don’t interact with people who are hungry or needy, unless they’re the hired help, and certainly the people in their social circles aren’t that way.

  30. maxhobbs says:

    So I work hard and smart my whole life, scrimp and save and finally the fruits of my labor pay off and I am now rich.

    So my reward is I have to pay a ton more in taxes than others and I am still the bad guy?

    • PunditGuy says:

      Nice try, Ayn. You’re paying a smaller percentage of your income in taxes than some folks making significantly less than yourself. EITC rectifies some of that at the lowest levels, but the middle (what’s left of it) tends to get screwed.

      We’re talking all taxes here, by the way. For example, the more you make over $110K or so, the lower the percentage of FICA that is coming out of your paycheck.

  31. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    What a coincidence! I just surveyed 300 homeless people and I’ve determined that all poor people smell really bad. I might be wrong though. I suppose it could be this “study”.

  32. amgriffin says:

    I’m not certain that it’s only wealthy people. I think one reason for lack of compassion is fear. If you realize that people can plan all they want, make all the right decisions, be responsible and proactive but still have catastrophic financial outcomes, then it could very well happen to you too. People want to believe they are safe. They want to believe they are in control. It’s a lot easier to believe if you also believe that only stupid, lazy people experience financial catastrophe.

    I think there is a threshold level of financial comfort at which this mentality can kick in, but I don’t believe you have to actually be wealthy to have it. I live in a poor but politically conservative state and see a great many people who display display this attitude who are not particularly financially secure themselves. Motivated reasoning on their part? I can only guess.

  33. SteveHolt says:

    God I’m so glad my not-overly-wealthy-but-comfortable parents had the sense to show me the real world and the less fortunate when I was a little kid. It scared me to death, but it made me so grateful for what I had (both monetarily and otherwise). At first I got a little offended by this article, but then realized it was merely because I know that its true (at least among my fellow rich kids). Sucks. Parents both rich and poor need to teach their kids to be compassionate and help others!

  34. speckles says:

    Comparing rich people with robots does a disservice to robots.

  35. aleck says:

    Typical error of a statistical noob: confusing correlation and causation.

    Once you establish through data that being rich correlates with being less compassionate, that does not mean that being rich CAUSES a person to be less compassionate. As a matter of fact, it may be he opposite. Lack of compassion in one’s character helps becoming rich.

  36. jeffile says:

    Good Lord! Are you people daft? The survey was taken at the University of Berkeley and polled 100 college students. Now, what in the hell do you expect from that location and those respondies? The non rich students probably are upset because the people who pay actually pay taxes didn’t provide more tax payer dollars for them to study four years of liberal arts. The rich kids probably have no clue what it is to be poor and without but they will soon learn what it’s like to pay for cell phones, internet access and a host of other things to those without. Are you people part of the 47% who subsidize stupid things like Cowboy Poetry or the 53% who believe you are entitled to hand outs?