People from lower social classes elicit greater prosociality

Abstract

People are quick to form impressions of others’ social class, and likely adjust their behavior accordingly. If social class is linked to prosociality, as literature suggests, then an interaction partner’s class should affect prosocial behavior, especially when costs or investments are low. We test this expectation using social mindfulness (SoMi) and dictator games (DG) as complementary measures of prosociality. We manipulate target class by providing information regarding a target’s (a) position on a social class ladder, and (b) family background. 

 

Three studies using laboratory and online approaches (Noverall = 557) in two nations (the Netherlands [NL], the UK), featuring actual and hypothetical exchanges, reveal that lower class targets are met with greater prosociality than higher class targets, even when based on information about the targets’ parents (Study 3). The effect of target class was partially mediated by compassion (Studies 2 and 3) and perceived deservingness of the target (Study 3). Implications and limitations are discussed.


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