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Social Networks Science

The Lower Your Social Class, the 'Wiser' You Are, Suggests New Study (sciencemag.org) 311

Wisdom -- the ability to take the perspectives of others into account and aim for compromise -- comes much more naturally to those who grow up poor or working class, according to a new study by social psychologist Igor Grossman at the University of Waterloo in Canada and his colleagues. Science Magazine reports: To conduct the study, Grossmann and his graduate student Justin Brienza embarked on a two-part experiment. First, they asked 2145 people throughout the United States to take an online survey. Participants were asked to remember a recent conflict they had with someone, such as an argument with a spouse or a fight with a friend. They then answered 20 questions applicable to that or any conflict, including: "Did you ever consider a third-party perspective?" "How much did you try to understand the other person's viewpoint?" and "Did you consider that you might be wrong?" Grossmann and Brienza crunched the data and assigned the participants both a "wise reasoning" score based on the conflict answers and a "social class" score, then plotted the two scores against one another. They found that people with the lowest social class scores -- those with less income, less education, and more worries about money -- scored about twice as high on the wise reasoning scale as those in the highest social class. The income and education levels ranged from working class to upper middle class; neither the very wealthy nor the very poor were well represented in the study.

In the second part of the experiment, the duo recruited 200 people in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take a standard IQ test and read three letters to the Dear Abby advice column. One letter, for example, asked about choosing sides in an argument between mutual friends. Each participant then discussed with an interviewer how they thought the situations outlined in the letters would play out. A panel of judges scored their responses according to various measures of wise reasoning. In the example above, thinking about how an outsider might view the conflict would earn points toward wisdom, whereas relying only on one's own perspective would not. As with the first part of the experiment, those in lower social classes consistently had higher wise-reasoning scores than those in higher social classes, the researchers reported today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. IQ scores, however, weren't associated one way or another with wise reasoning.

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The Lower Your Social Class, the 'Wiser' You Are, Suggests New Study

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  • Easy peasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:13AM (#55794937)

    Poor people are not spoiled rotten, nor are they accustomed to be able to make every problem "go away" by application of money. This gives them a whole lot more experience dealing with problems that involves having to deal with things and situations where you just can't in various ways brute force your way.

    Also, see "Cake, why don't they eat".

    • Re:Easy peasy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:28AM (#55794969)

      Basically, compromise is a survival skill for anyone without the strength (today, financial strength) to beat everyone else up until they do what you tell them to do.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2017 @08:54AM (#55795265)

        Wisdom is compromise?

        The study is absurd at the outset because they have a ridiculous definition of wisdom.

        • by PoopJuggler ( 688445 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @09:28AM (#55795347)
          It's not the only wisdom, but it's a wisdom.
        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @11:15AM (#55795751)

          The study is absurd at the outset because they have a ridiculous definition of wisdom.

          The methodology is silly as well. Rather than doing "surveys", they should have looked at hard data: Less educated and less affluent people have much higher rates of divorce and domestic violence. So it is unlikely that they are "better at compromising".

          People with college degrees are half as likely to divorce [fivethirtyeight.com] as those without.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            But is that a function of the person, or a function of the money? Take an "affluent" couple, and throw them into financial turmoil, medical debt, sicknesses, job instability. What do the divorce rates look like then?

          • The study is absurd at the outset because they have a ridiculous definition of wisdom.

            ....Less educated and less affluent people have much higher rates of divorce and domestic violence....

            Maybe if you're stuck in a bad marriage with a wealthy spouse, you would be more likely to maintain that marriage for reasons other than love. The wealthy spouse would rather not go through the expense of a divorce. So they buy separate homes and find a workable relationship. The point is the less affluent cannot buy their way out of difficult situations, so have to come up with other coping strategies.

            • Maybe if you're stuck in a bad marriage with a wealthy spouse, you would be more likely to maintain that marriage for reasons other than love.

              In other words, they compromise.

              The wealthy spouse would rather not go through the expense of a divorce. So they buy separate homes and find a workable relationship.

              This is not supported by evidence. For families with children, the more affluent and better educated are more likely to all live together. It is the poor families where Dad doesn't live at home.

          • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @03:34PM (#55796949) Homepage Journal

            Less educated and less affluent people have much higher rates of divorce and domestic violence. So it is unlikely that they are "better at compromising".

            But that's a scenario that's fraught with complications, isn't it? The character of compromises demanded from poor people differs from the kinds of compromises people with plenty of resources face. It's not about where to take vacation this year, it's food or medical care and which bills you can risk going past due on.

            I grew up in a quite poor neighborhood, and achieved middle class status through education. My family was better off than most, and I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to a prestigious engineering school. So I know from personal experience the difference between how poor people live and how middle class people live. My wife, my kids, most of the people I know these days have no idea. They don't know any families where the kids don't have beds to sleep in.

            Let me tell you another thing about poor people you probably don't know. For the most part they work. Often a hell of a lot, although these days many of the jobs aren't 9-to-5. You've got to get work where and when you can, and some employers are canny about using computerized scheduling to keep employees below thresholds where mandated benefits kick in.

            One in four working class people spend 50% or more on their income on rent. This means you really need two incomes, and low status jobs don't come with perqs like mental health days. So no flexible schedules or after-school programs for your kids; you give them a key and hope for the best.

            It's stressful to deal with all that, and that stress breaks up families.

            • Let me tell you another thing about poor people you probably don't know. For the most part they work. Often a hell of a lot

              Your assertion is not supported by evidence:

              Average number of income earners per household in bottom quintile: 0.45

              Average number of income earners per household in top quintile: 2.04

              Income inequality by household demographics [aei.org].

    • The wealthy are evil obviously, because they are too afraid to use their wealth and financial security to help others. I mean in many cases beyond $10 million dollars accumulating wealth is merely for greed. How do you ignore someone in need and keep money for yourself? If you were super empathetic you would be broke all the time. While 99% of the Bible is useless, the biblical note about the camel and needle has some basis in truth. That doesnâ(TM)t make the poor any better or more trustworthy though.

    • I am super wealthy, worth more than a million bucks. I always give a dollar to the panhandler at traffic lights. Yay! Iâ(TM)m a saint going straight to heaven.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:21AM (#55794953)

    By virtue of having been born on the wrong side of the tracks, I'm pretty much screwed. Stuck on a low level job I hate but hope it's still there next year. My Christmas presents are a pile of bills to pay. My best years have come and gone. I'd rather be a rich fool than a wise pauper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I understand the sentiment, but are you sure about that?
      Should my final report card, at the end of my life, be a record of my accumulated assets, or an archive of my virtues, achievements and reputation?
      Which of these will touch my descendants?
      Be careful what you wish for..
      - A friend
      • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @07:56AM (#55795155)
        I would rather leave a pile of assets to my next gen, than a pile of virtue which will count for NOTHING in the grand scheme of things. Sure , don't leave a negative legacy behind you i.o.w. don't be a murderer, or a rapist, or a scammer, etc.... But virtue left to your kid/grand kid ? Pah. That sure as hell will warm their heart when the bill comes to be paid, or will help them scale social ladder.... not.
      • What does it matter?

        You're dead. Sure, it might be comforting to know that the legacy you leave behind is one of joy instead of one of misery, but given the choice of leaving a legacy of joy and living a life in misery, or leaving a legacy of misery after living a life of joy, I choose the latter. Because screw you, I got mine.

  • Skin in the game (Score:3, Informative)

    by ilguido ( 1704434 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:40AM (#55795001)
    That's what N N Thaleb calls skin in the game: https://medium.com/incerto/on-... [medium.com] .
  • That's wisdom? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bistromath007 ( 1253428 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:43AM (#55795009)
    It's an important skill, and obviously part of what we call wisdom, but I don't think it's the sine qua non.

    I can offer an SSI benefit letter as supporting credentials.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The thing about wisdom is so much of it is domain specific. Over the course a career a software engineer and a kindergarten teacher learn many lessons which amount to a kind of practical, situational wisdom. Some of what they learn may be transferable to other contexts -- that's one of the reasons that jury trials work. But practical wisdom can fail us in unfamiliar situations because we fail to recognize salient differences.

      One of the most interesting characters in Shakespeare is Polonius, the king's ad

  • Not wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:49AM (#55795015)

    Wisdom -- the ability to take the perspectives of others into account

    What the author describes could be many things: diplomacy, empathy, humility even. But it is not wisdom. Though I can understand that people with less money (though that has little to do with "class" or entitlement - excpet possibly in the USA) will be forced to become more skilled in the art of compromise.

    Wisdom, as we all know, is not putting tomatoes in a fruit salad.

    • because he can't say 'Rich people become assholes'. For one thing odds are good he works for a corporation run by rich people. For another thing, anything that would suggest class warfare exists in America (it does) is taboo. So he dances around the issue, rather poorly I might add.
  • by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @06:51AM (#55795021)
    The higher your class, the less the ability to compromise is developed after a lifetime of getting whatever you want because you have money. Seems about right.
    • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @08:52AM (#55795263) Journal

      Yes, and too many folks who attain the highest social strata have anyone left around them to keep them grounded in reality. Not to single out the President because it affects many persons of privilege, but one Of President Trump's great weaknesses is an inability to accept criticism without perceiving it as a personal slight.

      Some advantages of being born poor?:

      You learn how to fix things other than by writing a check.

      All your well-being is less likely to be tied up in one commodity (money)... many suicides during the Wall Street crash of 1929.

      The greater the struggle of any life form, the hardier the stock.

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @07:43AM (#55795137) Homepage Journal

    That's complacency, adaptation and submisiveness.

  • That's not wisdom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @08:02AM (#55795165)

    Wisdom is "the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise." It has nothing to do with being able to understand someone else's perspective, nor does it have anything to do with class.

    I have a serious problem with this kind of article redefining what words mean, and then ascribing positive traits to lower-class people and negative traits to upper-class people. It's the same story as with "emotional intelligence": that was just a crutch to allow less intelligent people to feel good about themselves and to let them look down on smarter people, because those are _obviously_ not emotionally intelligent as well.

    And this is the same: being poor does not make you wise. I've seen poor people make horrendously unwise decisions, and in some cases they are poor because of that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Isn't it strange how, ever since Trump was elected, bigoted classism is now socially acceptable? Modded up to +5. Leftists insist that poor whites who voted for Trump are racist and sexist. The classist bigotry of the Left, which would have been unthinkable for leftists back in the 1930s, is never acknowledged. Moreover, although leftists insist we ought not to stereotype people, leftists are doing it constantly with Trump voters.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I have a serious problem with this kind of article redefining what words mean, and then ascribing positive traits to lower-class people and negative traits to upper-class people. It's the same story as with "emotional intelligence": that was just a crutch to allow less intelligent people to feel good about themselves and to let them look down on smarter people, because those are _obviously_ not emotionally intelligent as well.

      Some people are obviously all of the above. But there's undoubtedly also people like Sheldon, obviously intellectually brilliant but not very smart. In fact, dense as a brick in some contexts. Which may mean that abstract reasoning doesn't capture all the aspects of "smartness" we wish to measure. Because that's the core issue here, doing well on an IQ test is obviously a talent, like being exceptionally fast at running or having an absolute pitch. But is it a sort of "universal talent" that'll help you in

    • It's the same story as with "emotional intelligence": that was just a crutch to allow less intelligent people to feel good about themselves and to let them look down on smarter people, because those are _obviously_ not emotionally intelligent as well.

      Dude, at your UID it's long past measuring people across a single line. There's always someone more intelligent and a pissing contest is nowhere near any wisdom. You get wisdom from living and experience, intelligence is no substitute for wisdom.

  • Same With Monkeys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jblues ( 1703158 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @08:15AM (#55795193)

    Group living in all species is dependent on tolerance of other group members. In crab-eating macaques, successful social group living maintains postconflict resolution must occur. Usually, less dominant individuals lose to a higher-ranking individual when conflict arises. After the conflict has taken place, lower-ranking individuals tend to fear the winner of the conflict to a greater degree. In one study, this was seen by the ability to drink water together. Postconflict observations showed a staggered time between when the dominant individual begins to drink and the subordinate. Long-term studies reveal the gap in drinking time closes as the conflict moves further into the past. -- Long-tailed Macaques [wikipedia.org]

    tldr; All individuals depend on the group, higher ranking individuals, whose position in the group is more secure, can afford to be assholes.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If there exists an optimal solution to any problem, then compromise is likely to be the very least effective method to discover it. By definition, any solution reached through compromise is diluted by opposing intentions.

    If person A is right, and person B is wrong...any concession to deviate from person A's path results in an inferior outcome. Compromise may smooth out conflicts with one's peers, but avoiding conflict is not necessarily wise. In fact, it could be argued that conflict is the arena in which c

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbrueck ( 1872018 )

      Sorry, but no. First, there's generally no such thing as a solution that is 'optimal' all on its own. Instead, a solution to a problem is optimal for certain selected variables, i.e. if you value X, Y, and Z over all other variables, then you have a shot at finding a solution that is optimal for X, Y, and Z. But in doing so, that solution will be suboptimal for (probably many) other variables. And guess what? Not everyone agrees on which variables are most important.

      And this mentality that you're describing

  • Is an issue of perception; it has nothing to do with intelligence quotients or any other measurable tests. The "sapiophile" is losing ground and in times like these, people lean more towards ideology ("--ism") rather than objectivity. In other words, scientists are trying to be perceived in the same light as Confucius or Socrates and taking advantage of the grey areas of Multiple Intelligence Theory (Gardner) when wisdom is existential, even if ironically that means having to realize it's in the same class
  • The study is invalid. The participants are recruited from Mechanical Turk. Just how many rich and successful people are looking for work on there?

    Moreover, the effect seems to be much stronger for those with some college than a bachelors [royalsocie...ishing.org]. Which the authors didn't address at all.

    Not to mention the ridiculous definition of "wise".
  • Captain Stoic was glad to help.

  • W.T.F.? From the article: "Participants were asked to remember a recent conflict they had with someone, such as an argument with a spouse or a fight with a friend. ... or any conflict." Conflict can be anything from arguing about what t.v. show to watch to your neighbor jumping the hedge and beating the crap out of you because he doesn`t like the way you rake your leaves. (Or anything else). Data was collected via online poll! ...really? LOL. Is this really "the cutting edge in wisdom research"? This is
  • ...dumbasses aren't coddled. They end up on the streets and die of that. It's the last bastion of natural selection in humans.

  • When you have money, regardless of the amount, just that you're better off than someone else, the money gives you options others don't have. Go way far up the spectrum, and you see wealthy people living in sealed enclaves with security to protect them from having to deal with anyone. Way down the spectrum, you get people scratching and hustling just to get by from day to day...and they have to navigate their way around situations. Wealthy people apply the amount of money necessary to make a situation disapp

  • I don't think we need a study to tell us that rich people are some of the most awful human beings on the planet. I mean, even the bible says that rich people suck ass.

  • The study defined wisdom as a characteristic of followers rather than leaders and than found that underlings rather than boses posess it. If one is constantly vaccilating between points of view based on every conversation with others, it's impossible to commit to one course of action for long enough to succeed, let alone organize others to assist you. Of course, society needs both kinds of people to function. But that's a separate question of what constitutes wisdom.

  • Rearing it's ugly head again.

    Sorry, but being poor isn't a virtue. Nor is it something to condemn someone for.
    It just is.

    Yet some boob wants to claim that the poorer you are, the wiser you are.

    Never mind that one has NOTHING to do with the other.

    There are dumbasses in EVERY social strata.
    Just like there are intelligent and caring people in every social strata.

  • by mpercy ( 1085347 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @01:29PM (#55796387)

    A wise man learns from other people's mistakes.

  • It's called empathy. Who the hell is writing these articles?

  • Age is not a guarantee of wisdom, but it is a prerequisite.

    Wisdom is not just knowledge. It goes far deeper than that. There are a lot of people who know a lot, but they're not necessarily wise. At the very least you have to know yourself and fully understand who you are.

    I grew up dirt poor and now I'm old. According to this "study", I should be a very wise man. I'm not, but I do recognize wisdom when I see it. It's sad that I see so very little of it.

    Khalil Gibran said something that I've always kept in my
  • by sgt_doom ( 655561 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @03:13PM (#55796859)
    I believe this academic is confusing empathy with wisdom, not the same thing. Of course, the chronic psychopaths usually occupy the highest positions: hence the labor history throughout America and the planet of murdering labor organizers, union organizers and protesters and journalists, etc.
  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @03:47PM (#55797019)

    This study is beneath notice, but I do have one thing to add.

    In The Baroque Cycle Stephenson satirizes the myopic culture of Versailles. The higher up one goes in status, the smaller the tea leaf microscope required.

    While a few of the noblemen (and women) are relative dunderheads, there's no shortage of nested-plot mastermind decoders.

    Studies of adolescent culture have determined that the kids with the highest social status experience the most severe anxiety about committing a social blunder.

    Just like Versailles.

    (Also, remember that result next time you chuckle mindlessly about scientists doing a study which only managed to confirm the patently obvious.)

    The Fonz might seem cool to those around him, but deep down he's mainly driven by hair gel OCD.

  • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @04:01PM (#55797063) Journal

    Wise people don't answer surveys. That explains these stupid findings.

  • This may have merit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @10:49PM (#55798521)
    At my college, I became friendly with one of the security guards after he saved my life. He found me unconscious and laying on the ground. Turned out I had a life threatening infection and never knew. Well, we were talking one day and I had it out with my dad. I swore I would never make the same mistakes with my child when I have one. I swore that I would be a better father. Officer Joe looked me in the eye and said, "You won't make the same mistakes. You're right about that. You'll make all new ones. Have gratitude, not hate in your heart." 20 years later, after health issues, personal and professional failure, and heart ache, I'm now working as a security guard. I decided to become a security guard after thinking of Officer Joe. It's a hand to mouth existence but I've never felt more wealthy and freer. It took me 20 years of lost time that I won't ever get back, but I learned a lesson most never learn in their life times.

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.

Working...