The Rich

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me................  F. Scott Fitzgerald, in The Rich Boy.

Hemingway heard and borrowed critic Mary Colum's rejoinder to the effect that the only difference was that they had more money.  Robert Sapolsky takes a look at the data and the neurobiology.  It seems that the answer is both no and yes.

 ...when it comes to empathy and compassion, rich people tend to suck. This has been explored at length in a series of studies by Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley. Across the socioeconomic spectrum, on the average, the wealthier people are, the less empathy they report for people in distress and the less compassionately they act. Moreover, wealthier people are less adept at recognizing other people’s emotions and in experimental settings are greedier and more likely to cheat or steal. Two of the findings were picked up by the media as irresistible: (a) wealthier people (as assessed by the cost of the car they were driving) are less likely than poor people to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks; (b) suppose there’s a bowl of candy in the lab; invite test subjects, after they finish doing some task, to grab some candy on the way out, telling them that whatever’s left over will be given to some kids— the wealthier take more candy. 
Sapolsky, Robert M.. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (p. 672). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
So does being selfish make you rich or is it the other way around?  Some evidence suggests that it's the latter.

So if you want a more empathetic society, do you need to get rid of the rich - or at least take their money?


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