Working class people are WISER when it comes to dealing with others than their middle class counterparts, claim scientists

by Tim Collins,

  • Experts asked participants about their reasoning about interpersonal conflicts
  • They found that more affluent individuals and regions reasoned less wisely
  • Less wealthy people spend more time considering the impact of their decisions
  • This is necessary in order to coordinate with others and share resources

Middle class values of self-reliance and individual attainment have left the bourgeois less prepared to handle their interpersonal relationships, a new study claims.

While higher social class may provide greater opportunities to pursue knowledge and education, working class people show more wisdom when dealing with others.

Experts say economic hardship means less wealthy people spend more time considering the impact of their decisions on those around them.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada defined wisdom as the ability to be open-minded, intellectually humble and take on board different perspectives on important issues.

They found that more affluent people and areas, as well as higher social standing, are linked with diminished ability to reason wisely when it comes to other people.

Using large-scale surveys and lab studies, experts were able to build on previous research that found individuals with a lower income are often more sensitive to their environments.

Wise reasoning is not just about knowledge or the ability to think abstractly, but instead is a way of dealing with knowledge in the context of decision-making and uncertain interpersonal situations.

Open-mindedness and integrating different perspectives are necessary in order to coordinate with others and share resources, the experts say.

Speaking to MailOnline, Igor Grossmann, associate professor of psychology who led the study, said: 'Philosophers for a long time talked about wisdom as an intellectual virtue – attitudes or psychological strategies enabling navigation of uncertainty. These strategies do require an average IQ, but don't benefit from superior intelligence. Our findings point out the drawbacks of middle-class culture in the Western world. Generally, the culture is shifting toward greater self-focus and individualism. As we continue to focus as a society on the theme of self-focused rationality, independence and entitlement among the middle class, we are also inadvertently eroding wisdom and reasoning in favour of a more self-centred population.'

Across two studies, participants reported on their reasoning about interpersonal conflicts.

These conflicts ranged from disagreements over workplace processes and outcomes, to disputes with friends or spouses.

In the first study, researchers examined unresolved conflicts with a friend, co-worker or spouse. Participants were asked to recall a recent conflict and reflect on it, while experts questioned them about the forms of reasoning they used to settle the issue.

In the second study, the team used standardised scenarios involving conflicts between siblings, spouses or family members, which they presented to the group one participants.

Their thoughts on the scenario were scored based on specific reasoning themes.

Dr Grossmann added: 'The ability to reason within interpersonal relationships with wisdom – be open-minded, recognize limits of one’s knowledge, seek other perspectives on an issue and integrate them together – is negatively associated with social class in North America. Specifically, middle class Americans are less likely to show wisdom in their reflections compared to working class Americans.We were surprised how systematic our effects were.We have seen them when using different markers of social class, for example education, occupational prestige, income, as well as methods for capturing wise reasoning and when looking at differences across states in the US, individuals, and situations people happen to be in.Even for the person of the same level of education, if the conflict is with somebody of a higher social status, for example with a boss, they are more likely to reason wisely as compared to when the conflict is with a person of lower social status, for example, with a subordinate.'

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Read the article: Collins, T. (2017, December 19). Working class people are wiser when it comes to dealing with others than their middle class counterparts, claim scientists. Daily Mail. Retreived from

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