10 February 2009

Study: Rich ruder, plebes more attentive in conversations

[Iggy take note - see below.]

From Scientific American, we learn of a study which tells us plebes what we already know: that rich people tend to be aloof and disengaged when in conversation with us lesser mortals.

Still, it's nice to have our lowly opinions confirmed by science, no?
[I]ndividuals who are low on traditional measures of socioeconomic status (SES) ... demonstrate more “engagement cues” in conversations than do their wealthier peers.

The engagement cues include head nods, eyebrow raises, laughter and gazes at the partner. Disengagement cues include self-grooming, fidgeting with objects and doodling.

While the rich, with resources aplenty, have nothing to lose by being aloof with their minions, such is not the case for we common folk whose "negative equity" makes more attentive communication a necessity.

At least, it's a necessity if we want to be liked. And most of us do, since being liked tends to have a direct effect on our upward mobility - assuming we have a foothold on the ladder to begin with, of course.
Kraus and Keltner asked over 100 undergraduate students to engage in a ... five-minute “get-acquainted” conversational exchange with a complete stranger. Seated in chairs and facing each other about 3 ft apart, students were told to describe themselves to this other student, then to converse freely for the remaining five-minutes...

[H]igher SES significantly predicted disengagement cues. The students from wealthier backgrounds were more likely than their poorer cohorts to exhibit ... “rude” displays of relative indifference...

What’s more, the authors asked a group of other undergraduate students to watch the tape and to make their best guess about the SES of the people shown on the video. Based only on the participants’ nonverbal behaviors in these brief videotaped exchanges, the observers were able to make better-than-chance estimates of the participants’ family income and even their mother’s level of education, an indirect measure of SES... Kraus and Keltner conclude ... that “SES imbues the briefest interactions, influencing both what people signal nonverbally and how they are perceived.”

As I read this article I couldn't help but think of His Royal Igginess. The non-verbal cues he conveys to me suggest he and his Martinite cohorts haven't a clue how to relate to the commons. Which may be one explanation for the obliviousness displayed in the LPC's strategy for winning BC.

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