IN 2009 a team of psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, who were studying people from different walks of life, noticed that those from the upper classes were less good than those from the lower at discerning emotions on the faces of others. This led them to speculate that such empathy weakens as you go up the social scale. The theory might be true. But a paper just published in Psychological Science, by Pia Dietze and Eric Knowles of New York University, offers an alternative hypothesis—that it is not the emotional sensitivity of patricians to plebs which is impaired, but their attention to them.
Dr Dietze and Dr Knowles began their study with an experiment that they told participants was a study of Google Glasses. However, in the time-honoured tradition of experimental psychologists, they were lying. The test was not of these pieces of apparatus (tiny video cameras hidden in pairs of spectacles, which let wearers take surreptitious footage of whatever they are looking at), but rather of the participants’ behaviour. Each of the 61 volunteers was asked to wear a Google Glass, walk for a block in New York and focus their…Continue reading
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