Previous research revealed that humble people are more likely to help you out when you’re in a bind. Now a University of California, Berkeley, study suggests that, while they may have less resources, individuals from lower socio-economic classes tend to be more compassionate and quicker to help out others in the face of suffering. But it might be because they recognize it better.

The study involved 300 participants who were all of different ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic classes and were divided into three experiments. Each experiment correlated the level of empathy and compassion that participants showed in the face of emotionally charged situations with their socioeconomic status.

The researchers found that individuals from upper-middle and upper classes were not as easily able to “detect and respond to the distress signals of others” as those from lower classes, who the study correlated to be more empathetic.

“It’s not that the upper classes are coldhearted,” said lead author Jennifer Stellar. “They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives. These latest results indicate that there’s a culture of compassion and cooperation among lower-class individuals that may be born out of threats to their well-being.”

Source: UC Berkeley

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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