Posh People Really Do Think They’re Better Than Everyone Else, Study Finds

People from higher social classes really do think they’re better than others, and it’s helping to perpetuate the advantage of those groups, a study has found.

Psychologists from the University of Virginia and Stanford University wanted to understand how socioeconomic inequalities perpetuate.

“Advantages beget advantages. Those who are born in upper-class echelons are likely to remain in the upper class, and high-earning entrepreneurs disproportionately originate from highly educated, well-to-do families,” Dr Peter Belmi of UV and co-authors wrote in the study published in the Journal of Personality and Psychology.

“Our research suggests that social class shapes the attitudes that people hold about their abilities and that, in turn, has important implications for how class hierarchies perpetuate from one generation to the next.”

To investigate mechanisms of how inequality may be passed on, they performed several experiments. 

In the first, they tested the idea that individuals with relatively high social class are more overconfident compared with their lower-class counterparts. They looked at data from 150,000 small business owners in Mexico who were applying for loans between 2015 and 2017. As part of this application process, they were asked to take part in a psychometric assessment, which included a flashcard game. 

In the game, the participants were shown a flashcard showing an image. After pressing a button, they were then shown a second flashcard with another image on it. The subjects were then asked to assess whether the two images matched. This was repeated 20 times, and the participants scored based on how many they got correct. They were then asked how well they thought they did compared to other applicants. This was ranked from 0 to 100, with 100 being “better than all the other applicants”.

Using this test, the researchers were able to quantifiably show that “those with more education, income, and a higher subjective sense of standing in society were more likely to think that they did better on the flashcard game, compared with their lower-status counterparts”. This held true when compared with their actual performance on the test.

Next, online participants were given a trivia test and again asked to assess how well they thought they’d done compared to others. The results also showed that participants from a higher social class believed they had outperformed others, to an extent that didn’t match up with their actual performance.

In the final test, 236 undergraduates were asked to answer a trivia quiz and then assess how well they’d performed, to measure overconfidence levels. The students were then given a mock job interview, which was recorded and viewed by 900 judges, who were asked to rate their impression of the students’ competence. 

The researchers found again that people from higher social class (this assessment also included the wealth and education of their parents, given that they were students) were overconfident in their abilities. They also found that the judges saw this overconfidence and thought it indicated greater competence from the candidate, which could help to explain why people from higher class backgrounds are often selected over their equally competent peers from working-class backgrounds.

“We found that their overconfidence provided a path to social advantage, at least through an indirect process,” the authors wrote. “Individuals with relatively high social class were more overconfident, which, in turn, was associated with being perceived as more competent, and, ultimately, more hireable in the eyes of independent observers.”

“Even when people may have the best of intentions, they may contribute to the reproduction of inequality, especially in situations when they rely on behavioral proxies for abilities to infer the competence of others.”

Read more: https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/posh-people-really-do-think-theyre-better-than-everyone-else-study-finds/

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