Social class, solipsism, and contextualism: How the rich are different from the poor

Michael W. Kraus, Paul K. Piff, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Michelle L. Rheinschmidt, Dacher Keltner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social class is shaped by an individual's material resources as well as perceptions of rank vis-à-vis others in society, and in this article, we examine how class influences behavior. Diminished resources and lower rank create contexts that constrain social outcomes for lower-class individuals and enhance contextualist tendencies-that is, a focus on external, uncontrollable social forces and other individuals who influence one's life outcomes. In contrast, abundant resources and elevated rank create contexts that enhance the personal freedoms of upper-class individuals and give rise to solipsistic social cognitive tendencies-that is, an individualistic focus on one's own internal states, goals, motivations, and emotions. Guided by this framework, we detail 9 hypotheses and relevant empirical evidence concerning how class-based contextualist and solipsistic tendencies shape the self, perceptions of the social environment, and relationships to other individuals. Novel predictions and implications for research in other socio-political contexts are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-572
Number of pages27
JournalPsychological review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Culture
  • Inequality
  • Social class
  • Social cognition
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Social class, solipsism, and contextualism: How the rich are different from the poor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this