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Rich People Pay Less Attention To Other People, Says Study (businessinsider.com) 259

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a small recent study, researchers from New York University found that those who considered themselves in higher classes looked at people who walked past them less than those who said they were in a lower class did. The results were published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science. According to Pia Dietze, a social psychology doctoral student at NYU and a lead author of the study, previous research has shown that people from different social classes vary in how they tend to behave towards other people. So, she wanted to shed some light on where such behaviors could have originated. The research was divided into three separate studies. For the first, Dietze and NYU psychology lab director Professor Eric Knowles asked 61 volunteers to walk along the street for one block while wearing Google Glass to record everything they looked at. These people were also asked to identify themselves as from a particular social class: either poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or upper class. An independent group watched the recordings and made note of the various people and things each Glass wearer looked at and for how long. The results showed that class identification, or what class each person said they belonged to, had an impact on how long they looked at the people who walked past them. During Study 2, participants viewed street scenes while the team tracked their eye movements. Again, higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. For the third and final study, the results suggested that this difference could stem from the way the brain works, rather than being a deliberate decision. Close to 400 participants took part in an online test where they had to look at alternating pairs of images, each containing a different face and five objects. Whereas higher class participants took longer to notice when the face was different in the alternate image compared to lower classes, the amount of time it took to detect the change of objects did not differ between them. The team reached the conclusion that faces seem to be more effective in grabbing the attention of individuals who come from relatively lower class backgrounds.
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Rich People Pay Less Attention To Other People, Says Study

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sociopaths gonna sociopath. What's new?

    • Actually.. It's a case of the usual bs sociological broken rational.
      The study process nothing at all because...
      1. The amount of data collected is microscopic and therefore of zero statistical value.
      2. There are no controls at all.
      3. All the tests are uncorrelated as the situation is different for each.
      4. And most importantly.. Correlation is not causation! You would think 'researchers' would know this.. But apparently not.

      They would be so busy patting themselves on the back at discovering something they hav

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:34AM (#53159755)

        1. The amount of data collected is microscopic and therefore of zero statistical value.

        The study included over 400 people. That is more than enough to be statistically valid.

        2. There are no controls at all.

        They used non-rich people as controls.

        3. All the tests are uncorrelated as the situation is different for each.

        What? They are testing for the same hypothesis.

        4. And most importantly.. Correlation is not causation!

        The researchers never claim it is.

        discovering something they have preconceived (bad bad rich people!)

        They do not put a value on any behaviors. There is nothing inherently "bad" about not looking at other people. In fact, maybe it is the other way around, and excessive attention to other people is holding back the poor. Steve Jobs once remarked that mediocre people focus on other people, while smart people focus on ideas. Of course, smart is not the same as rich, but they are correlated.

        • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @04:51AM (#53159951)

          No, but the intent of the article and this 'research' is clear: to imply that being rich somehow implies less humanity.

          • by ttsai ( 135075 )

            No, but the intent of the article and this 'research' is clear: to imply that being rich somehow implies less humanity.

            "Rich" implies the possession of either large assets or high incomes. However, this study didn't ask for asset or income information. Rather, the labeling of rich people was based solely on self-identification. Thus, the more appropriate conclusion is that people think they are rich have the indicated behavior.

        • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @05:25AM (#53160013)

          Or maybe it's neither. A third possibility is that as rich people generally enjoy more insulation from physical hazards and risks in social situations, their biological instinct to assess random strangers for threat potential is duller than in poor people.

          Anyone want to guess a fourth?

          • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardpriceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 27, 2016 @06:38AM (#53160141)

            Confidence gained from their private schooling.

            I'm not a rich person, but some of the people in my social circle can certainly be classed as rich, while others should be classed as "middle class but working extremely hard to send their kids to private school", and others are normal middle class who send their kids to public school (I'm in the UK here). I have no kids of my own.

            One thing you would immediately notice when interacting with the kids of this fairly diverse group is that those kids that go to private school have significantly more confidence in interaction and themselves than the kids that go to public school. They are taught in different ways, and they are individually fostered and curated by their school teachers and support assistance, and they have a lot of support when it comes to "soft skills" such as confidence and interaction.

            Kids who go to private school are much more confident in themselves and their actions.

            • True. I remember a girl who went to a catholic private school (Belgium), and they were told on regular basis that they were the elite because this was an elite school and such. Of course that was pure bs, since the course curriculum is the same in every school. If you take advanced math and science, you will get advanced math and science regardless of being in a public or catholic school. It's just the entitlement that's different.
            • They are taught in different ways, and they are individually fostered and curated by their school teachers and support assistance, and they have a lot of support when it comes to "soft skills" such as confidence and interaction

              Thanks for your insights. It means a lot considering you don't have kids yourself and I'm guessing you don't attend a private school yourself.

        • Eleanor Roosevelt. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @06:33AM (#53160131) Journal

          Steve Jobs once remarked that mediocre people focus on other people, while smart people focus on ideas.

          "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

          • Nope.

            http://quoteinvestigator.com/2... [quoteinvestigator.com]

            • Good catch; but regardless of the source it's a good observation.

              For a guy, looking at people often means looking at women with an eye to sexual properties. That's not a path to great accomplishments; that's why the people watchers are poor. Looking at things involves thinking "I can buy that", or better, "I can make that", and that leads to productive activity. The rich person thinks "I can improve that", he's in the realm of ideas with the potential to make things better for a lot of people and profit on

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The study shows rich people are more focused, less easily distracted.

        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @07:35AM (#53160319) Homepage Journal

          Yep, GP loses at bad-research bingo. Also, he missed the actual problem with this research: the subjects are divided into classes by self-reporting. So the headline should read, "People who consider themselves above other people pay less attention to others." It's not an un-interesting result, but it is not quite as interesting when you put it that way.

          I've worked with people of all classes, and anecdotally at least I've found that F. Scott Fitzgerald was right: the rich aren't like you and me; they have more money. Old money at least lives a little bit like the people you read about in Jane Austen books; a lot of their energy goes into socializing with others of their class. So it would be interesting to look at old money/new money this way. Another interesting confounding factor is urban/rural. Rural people tend to be poorer. Urban people actually get more human interaction per time while participating in less per person encountered.

          In most interesting social science research it's not the first and obvious way of dividing up people that draws your attention (e.g. rich/poor, young/old, male/female); it's the second cut. That's because most of our pop-psych deals in the first cuts (men are from Mars, women from Venus); the second cut tells us the ways our intuitions are limited.

          • Because it's not like many other studies reach similar conclusions: http://opinionator.blogs.nytim... [nytimes.com] .

            If you don't like the conclusion, attack the study.

            • by hey! ( 33014 )

              I'm an old time leftie; I'm perfectly OK with a study that says rich people are bastards -- if it can back that up. However I'm a nerd first -- particularly a data nerd. Sloppy inferences really piss me off.

        • They do not put a value on any behaviors. There is nothing inherently "bad" about not looking at other people. In fact, maybe it is the other way around

          Yes; maybe the down-and-outs are looking for rich people to mug.

        • by ttsai ( 135075 )

          1. The amount of data collected is microscopic and therefore of zero statistical value.

          The study included over 400 people. That is more than enough to be statistically valid.

          I don't have access to the actual paper, but it's not clear how many people are included in each of the categories. Past studies have suggested that people have a tendency to self-identify as middle-class, moderate, etc. So, I would expect that the bulk of the 400 people were in the middle-class category. If the "rich" people were intended to represent the "1%", then I would expect about 4 rich people if the people were randomly selected. If more than 1% of the 400 self-identified as rich, then perhaps,

        • Steve Jobs once remarked that mediocre people focus on other people, while smart people focus on ideas.

          He may have said it, but it certainly isn't his quote. It looks like the quote comes from Charles Stewart in 1901:
          "Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas."

          http://quoteinvestigator.com/2... [quoteinvestigator.com]

        • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 )

          2. There are no controls at all.

          They used non-rich people as controls.

          Are you sure about that? From the summary "those who considered themselves in higher classes" where the focus group. Was the control "those who considered themselves in lower classes"? If so, it says nothing about rich and poor people, but only about people's idea of their place in society. All of the groups were self-identified. A valid control would be one in which the researchers, based on empirical data, assign individuals to specific socio-economic groups.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Sociopaths gonna sociopath.

      The problem with nonsense like this is that you completely ignore social dynamics. If I'm going to rob someone, would I rather rob someone who doesn't have a penny to their name or a rich person? If I'm going to scam someone, who's it going to be? You have time, think about it.

      Rich people are targets for a fair portion of the general population while poor people aren't. Disengagement is a defensive mechanism against the sociopaths of society, not because somehow being rich is sociopathic.

      • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

        Interesting. On the same path, I once heard a quote something like this: "It costs you nothing to be friendly when your friendship isn't worth anything." I've often wondered if people would tend to become friendlier if you convinced them they were worse off than their peers, because in a friendship they'd have more to gain and little to lose.

    • Well also the more you have the more you can lose.

      This really isn't new. Back in the great depression much of this discussion of this as well.

      "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" - composed in 1934 by George Gershwin
      "Folks with plenty of plenty.They've got a lock on the door. Afraid somebody's going to rob 'em.While there out (a) making more - what for"

  • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm@ice[ ]m.com ['bal' in gap]> on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:05AM (#53159695)

    ... News at 11.

    • Even more shocking: people who think they are 'upper class' are more self absorbed.

      "These people were also asked to identify themselves as from a particular social class: either poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or upper class"

      • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @04:25AM (#53159893)

        Even more shocking: people who think they are 'upper class' are more self absorbed.

        Yes, all two of them! Which of course is an entirely adequate sample to extrapolate from the relative performance of self-identified lower and middle class people to self-identified upper class people... if you are a social science major with no understanding of statistics or the scientific method.

    • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:52AM (#53159803) Homepage Journal

      ... and therefore easier to mug! :-p

    • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @08:26AM (#53160487)

      ... News at 11.

      Quite. Only last night I was reading Joseph Conrad's "The Arrow of Gold" written 1919, where he describes two gawkers (Blunt and his mother, themselves middle=class) come to watch a high society painter (Henry Allègre) and his mistress on their morning ride in the Bois de Boulogne.

      Mr. Blunt and his indiscreet mother .. had one more chance of a good stare. ... [Allègre and his mistress] came riding very slowly abreast of the Blunts. ...[The girl's] expression was serious and her eyes thoughtfully downcast. .. Mr. Blunt had never before seen Henry Allègre so close. .... Blunt was .... wondering if [Allegre would] take off his hat. But he did not. Perhaps he didn’t notice. Allègre was not a man of wandering glances.

      Things have always been so.

  • dallah! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:11AM (#53159707)

    You got a dallah you can give me? My car jus broke down and I need to get my kids some medicin from da cvs.

    You think I am kidding? I have had that exact conversation with a few variations, many times with many different people.

    Keep your head down. Dont make eye contact. Maybe they will not bother you.

    • by Zontar The Mindless ( 9002 ) <plasticfish DOT info AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:21AM (#53159731) Homepage

      Interesting. I had a fellow on the the train yesterday ask me for food. When I told him I didn't have any money (true), he said he didn't want money, just a loaf of bread. I had just spent nearly the last of the money in my bank account at the grocery shop (due to a banking stuff-up, payday was delayed a couple of days this month). I didn't have any bread, but I gave him one of the two bricks of cheese I'd just purchased and wished him luck in finding some bread to go with it.

      • by hughbar ( 579555 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:56AM (#53159823) Homepage
        Well done. My friend and I (we're both 'old') have constant debates about this. We live in London, where there's (obviously) quite a lot of begging. Both our families have also been affected by addiction problems. So we tend to give/buy food rather than give cash, when we do. One regular likes sausage rolls, really unhealthy, but on the street one needs carbs etc. Very often, people also just like to be acknowledged as fellow human beings, eye-contact, good morning.

        But, of course, there are also scammers and begging 'organisations', so the only guide is intuition. Better to be sometimes wrong than do nothing though.
  • The majority of posts are simply going to assume that spending more time looking at someone is better than not, but case in point people look at things they are afraid of and need time to figure out, longer than things they don't.
    • Yeah, the fellow up above railing against the biased research sure injected his own bias into interpreting the data. As you say, a wealthier person may just find everyone else less threatening, etc. I suppose that is a problem with anthropology, it is easier to find interesting correlations than to decide what they mean.
  • by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @03:47AM (#53159783)

    I'd say that if you are the type of person that hasn't much concern for other humans, then perhaps that is one of the prerequisites of getting into the "upper class" category.

    Just personal observation, no scientific studies here.

  • You don't just ask people what class they fall in...you'll get inaccurate results. How many "rich" people volunteer in a group of 61?...or even 400.

    There are regional and generational differences...the article didn't say if the experiment occurred in just one location or if they experimented in a variety. Or, did they consider the age of the participants.

    Also, it's quite possible there's another explanation. There's plenty of prior work showing that more successful people are able to assess things more q

    • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @05:31AM (#53160021)

      It certainly wasn't the researchers who jumped to any SJW conclusions. The researchers found self-described rich people took less attention to random strangers. That's all. Attention is not the same as empathy.

    • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @07:25AM (#53160279) Homepage
      "There are regional and generational differences"

      Exactly!!! I live in Alabama and it's considered courteous to speak to total strangers. Good morning, good evening, thank you, you're welcome, and have a nice day are ALL spoken and heard every day here. Heck, we even hold doors open for strangers. We're a friendly bunch down here. Even rich people are friendly! It's nothing unusual to see a rich person sitting next to and conversing with a poor person at a football game. Y'all just need to learn some manners.
      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        As a midwestern transplant to the DC area, I was surprised how unfriendly people in the DC metro area are. Say hello to someone you don't know?...you'll get a look like you've got a third eye on your forehead. I've been here for 35 years, and can't wait to get the hell out when I retire.

    • Wealthy is relative. When I lived in Africa for 30 months in the mid 1980s, I was (as a white man) presumed to be very wealthy by a far higher percentage of people than I was in the USA. And in fact, relatively speaking, I probably was far wealthier. I found a lot of "fast friends" were attracted to engaging with me, some out of common decency to make outsiders feel welcome, but others definitely on the bet that if they befriended me they could ask for a loan or a favor.

      Naturally, the more people are tryin

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @04:02AM (#53159849)
    Is it just an American thing, the assumption that wealth and class are the same? In the UK we have working class billionaires and a lot of financially struggeling members of the middle classes
    • Um, no. Typically in the entire Western sphere class is defined precisely by income. India is really the only remaining major country where you are born into a class and cannot leave it.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        Where did you get either of those? In almost every country in the world you are identified by the class you were born into. That can be identified by your race, language, tribe, religion, whatever. It's everywhere.
    • No, it's just a nonsense thing. The premise is foolish because the concept of "class" is both nonsensical, and in this case, self-defined.

    • In the USA, we have all kinds of "rich" people. We have old money, new money, white collar money, blue collar money, and everything in between. In fact that's the thing that makes America great: anyone from any background has the opportunity to make it big and make themselves (and their families) as rich as they can imagine.

      The stereotypes you hear on Slashdot about rich and wealthy people are just that.....stereotypes. IMHO, stereotypes aren't much use in this area because of the distribution of
  • Expectations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2016 @04:09AM (#53159861)

    This outcome may possibly arise from a lifetime of interactions where people treat you like you owe them something. I remember I was sitting outside a church waiting for my wedding to begin when a man approached me and asked me for some money for the bus or for gas. I didn't have any cash on me, and when I told him this he became irritated and belligerently responded "can't you just walk to the gas station and use the ATM?!". I've had countless interactions with people who take eye contact as an invitation to stop you on the street to try and sell something, for a survey, to beg, or in some way impede you. If I'm out an about, its because I have places to be, so I keep my head down and keep to myself.

  • lousy study (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @04:23AM (#53159891)

    The study only had two nominally "upper class" individuals in it, meaning the study has too few samples to say anything about "upper class". The only thing you might infer is that middle class people pay less attention than lower class people.

    But the class assignment is based on self-reports. A lot of rich people consider themselves middle class, and some middle class people by income consider themselves upper class. So, the study really says that people who consider themselves to be of a higher class pay less attention.

    But wait, that's still not right. What they actually measured is "dwell time". The differences in dwell time are small and they recorded only 1 minute of video or used images on monitors. In addition, they didn't control for other factors that vary with socioeconomic status, such as level of education and IQ.

    So, the study says nothing about "rich people" and next to nothing about "upper class people". And what it says about lower vs middle class may have nothing to do with attention or class.

    • Let us not forget that the individuals were aware that they were being recorded. Awareness of a measurement biases the results.

      • It might be interesting to research why self-identified middle/upper class people paid less attention to strangers when they knew they were being recorded. or perhaps why self identified lower class people paid more attention.
    • Self reporting is still interesting, it just tells you a different thing than if it was decided by a metric, such as actual gross income. It would've been better if they could get that data as well and compare self-reported data versus actual economic data.
      • Self reporting is still interesting, it just tells you a different thing than if it was decided by a metric

        TFA talks about "rich people", which the publication had nothing to do with; that is TFA was biased and tendentious.

        The researchers should not have added two "upper class" individuals to the study, because they only add noise. The fact that they did add these two people suggests that the researchers had an agenda and a bias, which calls the whole study into question.

        Finally, "class" and "self-reported

    • In NYC you're generally on your way to somewhere, so anyone that stops for a study is going to be kind of weird.

  • Hey! that's maybe the way to become rich!
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @06:36AM (#53160137)

    They failed to double-blind the experiment.

    They also failed to have a set of test subjects which they tested, and *post hoc* asked them to self-identify their social class.

    It would also be interesting to scale "self identified social class" vs. "actual social class", across the results vectors.

    Pretty crappy experiment. Sorry.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Proverbs 18:23 When the poor speak, they have to be polite, but when the rich answer, they are rude.

  • Makes sense. Most people aspire to be better off. (yes, Anonymous Coward, I know, you're the exception)

    There have been studies done that suggest that people tend to "dress up". What I mean by that is, if someone moves into an area where dress codes are more formal, or more affluent looking, people in those areas tend to adapt to that dress code.

    If someone moves to an area where people dress more slovenly than they are accustomed to, they tend to not change their clothing- they would rather stand out as t

    • I remember stopping at a mall on my way home from a funeral out of town, which is one of the few occasions I wear my suit. I was confused at how polite all the staff were being to me and being addressed as 'sir' constantly until I remembered I was wearing a suit at some random outlet mall in the middle of nowhere. It almost made me want to get some more suits and wear them all the time, but dressing better than management at work would feel rather awkward...
  • Step 1: get car
    Step 2: drive the 101 from say hopland to san francisco
    Step 3: notice that the cock behavior crescendos around Marin, and is mostly attributable to autos at or near the six figure mark

  • by skovnymfe ( 1671822 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @08:06AM (#53160421)
    Studies show rich people have it going for themselves. They don't need to look at or rely on others to get shit done. They just throw money around and things happen. Unlike poor people who have to talk to their peers to get anything done. Well shit. Who knew?
    • People don't get rich by throwing money around. They do it through shrewd negotiating, which is the opposite of what you are suggesting.
  • by Atrox Canis ( 1266568 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @08:26AM (#53160483)

    All of the test subjects were instructed to pretend to be part of various classes of society. How is pretending to be rich, poor or middle class while walking down a street supposed to discover how people that are actually rich, poor or otherwise truly behave? Everyone has preconceived notions of how people in other classes behave. If you think that rich people walk with a swagger, you're going to walk with a swagger when instructed to pretend to be rich.

    I get that the researchers were attempting to isolate behavioral changes based on differences in environmental circumstances but I would have been more impressed if they had actually recruited real wealthy people to put on the glasses and do the walk. Seems to me that by not doing that, they artificially influenced the actual test subjects by allowing for those subjects to exercise their own bias.

  • It seems to me that the primary reason to look at strangers you pass is if you feel insecure and scared of assault of theft from them.
    Their is probably also a large correlation to mating behavior.

    Most likely this just shows that Rich people are more likely happily in a relationship and trusting of strangers.

    Anyone trying to correlate staring at strangers you pass in the street with caring about these strangers is doing so with no evidence or theory.

  • by ninthbit ( 623926 ) on Thursday October 27, 2016 @09:24AM (#53160795)

    Perhaps those that are on the right half of the curve just simply recognize that more often than not, that other people bring them down and have nothing to offer. Those on the left side of the curve see almost anyone as someone who can help them.

    Besides the trust-funded 1% who suck at life but live in the ultra-upper class, most successful people are just more capable.

  • Sorry, I wasn't listening.

  • been happening for ages in a microcosm scale.
  • It's been 8+ hours since this story appeared on Slashdot and I'm going to claim a "First" and ask why this story is on Slashdot and not Salon.

  • Pretty generally, among the social primates, individuals pay attention to higher status individuals.
    High status individuals are the ones who might have something to offer you.
    Alternately, they are the ones with the resources to attack you.
    You need to keep track of where they are; what they are doing; what they are interested in; who *they* are looking at.

    Just walking down the street, a rich person sees fewer richer people around him than a poor person, and thus, fewer people that he needs to pay attention t

  • At many points in my life, I've worked with all classes of people from the poor to executives. The following are absolute facts:
    1. Anyone in the "very rich" class, consciously or subconsciously, does pay less attention to "normal people" -- they don't have to in their minds.
    2. Anyone with any hope of becoming very rich (think upper middle class SV startup execs, etc,) will mirror-match the behavior of the target class.

    The other pieces of (anecdotal) evidence I'd cite in this case would be the California exe

  • Too rich; Didn't read.
  • Sociologists spend a lot of time paying attention to other people. Maybe that's why they're all so poor.

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