There is a variety of behavioral differences
among people of various social classes - including levels of
compassion, interpersonal engagement, charity, ethicality, and empathy
toward others, suggested previous studies.
The degree to which other people divert your attention may depend on your social class, suggested new findings published in Psychological Science
a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
‘The degree to which other people divert your attention may depend on your social class, suggested a new study.’
shows that people who categorize themselves as being in a relatively
high social class spend less time looking at passersby compared with
those who aren't as well off, a difference that seems to stem from
spontaneous processes related to perception and attention.
"Across field, lab, and online studies, our research documents that
other humans are more likely to capture the attention of lower-class
individuals than the attention of higher-class individuals," says
psychological scientist Pia Dietze of New York University. "Like other
cultural groups, social class affects information processing in a
pervasive and spontaneous manner."
Dietze and co-author Eric Knowles wondered whether these
discrepancies might stem, at least in part, from deep, culturally
ingrained differences in the way people process information.
The researchers hypothesized that our social class affects how
relevant others are to us in terms of our own goals and motivations.
Compared with people who come from less-advantaged circumstances, people
from relatively privileged backgrounds are likely to be less dependent
on others socially; as such, they are less likely to view other people
as potentially rewarding, threatening, or otherwise worth paying
Importantly, Dietze and Knowles posited that this difference
in what they call "motivational relevance" is so fundamental that it
manifests in basic cognitive processes - like visual attention - that
operate quickly and involuntarily.
In one study, the researchers had 61 pedestrians in New York City
wear Google Glass, presumably as a test of the electronic eyewear. The
participants walked roughly one block while Google Glass recorded
whatever they were looking at, and they also completed several survey
measures that gauged social class. In one measure, for example,
participants categorized themselves as belonging to either the poor, the
working class, the middle class, the upper-middle class, or the upper
Later, an independent group of raters watched the recordings and
noted the various people and things each Glass wearer looked at and for
Dietze and Knowles then examined whether there were any links
between what the participants paid attention to and their social class,
taking participants' ethnicity into account.
The results indicated that social class didn't seem to play a role
in how many times Glass wearers looked at other people. But social class
was associated with how much time they spent looking at passersby:
Participants who categorized themselves as being in a higher social
class spent less time looking at other people than those who placed
themselves in a lower social class.
Two follow-up studies using more precise eye tracking technology
showed similar results: Higher-class participants spent less time
looking at people in a street scene than did their lower-class peers.
Additional findings suggest that this difference in attention stems
from spontaneous cognitive processes, rather than deliberate decision
making. A total of 393 participants in an online study looked at
alternating pairs of images, each of which contained one face and five
They were asked to identify whether the images were the same or
different. The data revealed that higher-class participants took longer
to notice when the face changed compared with lower-class participants;
on the other hand, social class didn't seem to affect how long it took
them to detect changes to one of the objects.
In other words, faces seem to be more effective in grabbing the
attention of individuals who come from relatively lower-class
"Our work contributes to a growing knowledge base around the
influence of social class background on psychological functioning," says
Dietze. "The more we know about the effect of social class differences,
the better we can address widespread societal issues - this research
is just one piece of the puzzle."
Dietze and Knowles are expanding this line of research, collecting
data in other countries and employing virtual reality technology, to
better understand how far the link between social class and visual