People of Higher Social Class Think They Are Better Than Others, Even When They're Not

People of a higher social class think they are better than others, even when they're not. That's according to the authors of a new study.

Researchers set out to answer whether men and women of a higher social standing are more confident than lower-class individuals, and if that confidence helped them get ahead by appearing more competent than others.

For their study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a team looked at the results of four studies in which more than 152,000 people took part. The first study involved 150,949 small-business owners in Mexico who were applying for loans. The team looked at factors including the participants' education level and income as well as the results of a psychological test in which they were asked to predict how well they'd do. The results suggested those of a higher social class were more "overconfident" than lower-class individuals.

A similar outcome emerged from a second study conducted in the U.S., where 433 people completed an online survey on topics including their personality, how optimistic they were about their future, and their social class. This research went a step further by suggesting that an inflated sense of self-belief of those farther up in the social hierarchy was motivated by a desire to achieve a high social rank.

In the third study, 1,400 people completed a trivia game. Higher-class people had greater self-confidence in tasks even when there was no measurable reason they would perform better.

The fourth piece of research saw 279 participants take part in a mock job interview. It revealed that those closer to the top of the social ladder were more self-assured compared with those on the lower rungs, which made it seem like they knew what they were doing. That likely helped them preserve their social status, the authors said.

Peter Belmi, assistant professor of business administration at the University of Virginia and lead author of the study, commented: "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.

"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."

Belmi continued: "In the middle class, people are socialized to differentiate themselves from others to express what they think and feel, and to confidently express their ideas and opinions even when they lack accurate knowledge.

"By contrast, working-class people are socialized to embrace the values of humility, authenticity and knowing your place in the hierarchy."

Belmi believes the study showed that the idea that everyone thinks they are better than average may be more prevalent among the middle and upper classes.

"Our results suggest that finding solutions to mitigate class inequalities may require a focus on subtle and seemingly harmless human tendencies," he said.

"Although people may be well-meaning, these inequalities will continue to perpetuate if people do not correct for their natural human tendency to conflate impressions of confidence with evidence of ability."

People of Higher Social Class Think They Are Better Than Others, Even When They're Not | Tech & Science
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