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Why the Wealthy Lack the Ability to Perceive Emotions

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A new study out of Psychological Science offers some tough love for rich people, but the good news is that the study shows that rich people have no emotions, so it shouldn’t really bother them, anyway.

Okay, okay, not exactly true. While the study doesn’t say the wealthy have no emotions, it does make the case for why they are less empathic than lower-income people.

Here’s how the science works.

More than 300 upper and lower-income people were shown photos of strangers and asked to identify which emotions they were showing.

“We found that people from a lower-class background – in terms of occupation, status, education and income level – performed better in terms of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotions that others are feeling,” says Michael Kraus, co-author of the study, tells MSNBC.

Kraus says the reason why lower-income people are more empathic is because they need to learn how to “turn to people” for help. “You develop this sort of heightened independence with other individuals as a way to deal with not having enough individual resources.”

Of course, it would be really interesting to know whether or not a person’s empathic abilities shift with their income. Would, for example, someone who grows suddenly wealthy suffer a loss of empathy? Conversely, would a rich person who loses all their money find themselves suddenly more attuned to the others’ emotions?

These questions and more might be answered in the body of the study, however, seeing as it costs $35 to read it, and seeing as how I’m not a wealthy individual, I’m just not able to delve that deep. I can, however, sense that you seem really curious, so I absolutely suggest that you shell out the money for me, and we can get down to business.


Okay, well in any event, I’m not entirely convinced by this “study” anyway. After all, how do you account for the fact that Bruce Springsteen—arguably the most empathic man to ever understand the subtle emotional life of bricklayers, railroad workers, and coal miners—can be so damn wealthy?
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