Class and compassion: Socioeconomic factors predict responses to suffering

Jennifer E. Stellar, Vida M. Manzo, Michael W. Kraus, Dacher Keltner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research indicates that lower-class individuals experience elevated negative emotions as compared with their upper-class counterparts. We examine how the environments of lower-class individuals can also promote greater compassionate responding-that is, concern for the suffering or well-being of others. In the present research, we investigate class-based differences in dispositional compassion and its activation in situations wherein others are suffering. Across studies, relative to their upper-class counterparts, lower-class individuals reported elevated dispositional compassion (Study 1), as well as greater self-reported compassion during a compassion-inducing video (Study 2) and for another person during a social interaction (Study 3). Lower-class individuals also exhibited heart rate deceleration-a physiological response associated with orienting to the social environment and engaging with others-during the compassion-inducing video (Study 2). We discuss a potential mechanism of class-based influences on compassion, whereby lower-class individuals' are more attuned to others' distress, relative to their upper-class counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-459
Number of pages11
JournalEmotion
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Prosociality
  • Social class
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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