Rich people see the world differently.


I’ve long noticed that middle, working class and lower middle class families seem to care more about each other and show more empathy and generosity to each other than upper middle class and wealthy families, who often seem cold and unsupportive, even to their own. Many upper middle class families, including my own, seem to take the “sink or swim” attitude even to their own children. They refuse to offer either emotional or financial support when you fall on hard times. Their attitude is, each man or woman is an island and no one is responsible for you but yourself. They don’t seem to believe in lending a helping hand when one of their members falls down or is having difficulty. In fact, too many seem likely to kick that person when they’re down and blame the victim for their troubles. “Well, if she had only done this or that,” or “she never listened and this is what she gets,” or “well, she always made such poor choices.” If you’re not doing well, they seem embarrassed or ashamed of you and may even exclude or shun you.

In middle to lower-class families, there just seems to be more empathy and understanding and emotional support shown to other family members who are having difficulties. They seem more likely to listen without judging or shaming, and will even try to help financially when they can, even though they might not be able to afford to.

Of course, this isn’t an ironclad rule. There are many well to do families who are very emotionally supportive and empathic to one another, and may also give generously to charity. There are also many dysfunctional lower class families who treat other family members horribly. But the class differences in empathy is a pattern I’ve noticed, especially as someone who came from one of these cold as ice upper middle class families. I think narcissism runs rampant in the upper middle class even more than the truly wealthy, who are more secure in their status. In my own family (we were far from rich, but I suppose we were solidly upper middle class), I might as well have been an orphan, for all the “love and support” I got from them over the years. Now I’m a source of shame for most of them. Oh well, too bad. I feel like I’m a better person than they are because I don’t judge people based on their physical appearance, financial status, or job title.  I look at what’s inside, or at least I try to.

I thought it was just me, but apparently there is empirical evidence that supports the idea that rich people are less empathic and care more about themselves while the less wealthy feel more like “we’re all in this together.”   This article from  explains the research behind this finding.

Rich People Literally See The World Differently

By Drake Baer, for

The way you view the world depends on the culture you come from — in a granular, second-by-second sense. If you present a Westerner and an East Asian with the same visual scene, for instance, the former is more likely to focus on individual objects, and the latter will likely take in more of the scene as a whole. East Asians are more holistic in their thinking, the research indicates; Westerners are more analytic.

The same thing is happening with people who are from the same country, but belong to different social classes. With America’s top one percent of earners earning 81 times the average of the bottom 50 percent, the research shows how the wealthy and the working classes really do live in different cultures, and thus see the world in different ways.

One of the most powerful examples come from Michael Varnum, a neuroscientist at Arizona State University. In a 2015 paper on empathy, he and his colleagues recruited 58 participants for a brain-imaging study: First, the participants filled out a self-report on their social class (level of parents’ education, family income, and the like) before sitting down for an EEG session. In the brain-imaging task, participants were shown neutral and pained faces while they were told to look for something else (the faces were a “distractor,” in the psych argot, so hopefully the participants wouldn’t know they were being tested for empathy).


Read the rest of this article here.


8 thoughts on “Rich people see the world differently.

  1. “I’m morally superior because I don’t think I’m morally superior.” I used to tell myself that as I surrounded myself with the intellectual elite (what my friend at the time called ‘over-educated idiots’) who then looked down on me in part because I chose to be in a single-income family with a stay-at-home mom. While in incest recovery. *sigh*

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  2. Thank you for this article! It was a very informative read 🙂 And I have noticed this myself about rich and upper middle class families. I don’t think this is the first study drawing such conclusions. I remember another one that said having money tended to make people more prone to petty crime – I mean really petty, like running red lights and parking in the handicapped parking space – even if they’d never had a lot of money before and had just won it in the lottery or something. I guess the thinking there is, “I can afford the fine, and that’s all I’m going to get, right?”

    I think the root causes of this coldness towards those less fortunate could be narcissism (having a metric ton of money will probably do that to you), and also, especially in the case of those who grew up rich, a lack of understanding about how people can fall on hard times. I mean, if you’ve spent your entire life with all your needs taken care of and no reason to worry about poverty, you probably can’t truly understand why someone who is poor can’t find the funds. I’ve heard people raised rich have trouble on a budget for kind of the same reason; they’ve never had to manage a fixed level of money. Not, of course, that all rich people are like this, but I think there are a lot who are. Just my two cents 🙂

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    • These are valuable thoughts Wolfgirl. I do think there’s a sense of entitlement among the rich too, which is why they do things like park in handicapped spaces, etc. It’s definitely true that someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth, who never had to struggle or save, has no clue how to budget or handle money, and doesn’t understand why you might not be able to afford something.


      • Yes, entitlement, definitely. “I’ve earned this, I deserve it, why should *I* have to walk farther to the store than *them*?” And yes, even if they’re trying to be nice, they still have trouble with the concept of “can’t afford it”. In fairness, I have trouble with the concept “can afford it”, so 😛

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