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Psychol Sci. 2010 Nov;21(11):1716-23. doi: 10.1177/0956797610387613. Epub 2010 Oct 25.

Social class, contextualism, and empathic accuracy.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California St., Suite 465, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA. michael.kraus@ucsf.edu

Abstract

Recent research suggests that lower-class individuals favor explanations of personal and political outcomes that are oriented to features of the external environment. We extended this work by testing the hypothesis that, as a result, individuals of a lower social class are more empathically accurate in judging the emotions of other people. In three studies, lower-class individuals (compared with upper-class individuals) received higher scores on a test of empathic accuracy (Study 1), judged the emotions of an interaction partner more accurately (Study 2), and made more accurate inferences about emotion from static images of muscle movements in the eyes (Study 3). Moreover, the association between social class and empathic accuracy was explained by the tendency for lower-class individuals to explain social events in terms of features of the external environment. The implications of class-based patterns in empathic accuracy for well-being and relationship outcomes are discussed.

PMID:
20974714
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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