Why wealthy people are biased towards others

Washington, July 23 (IANS) Wealthy people may be likely to oppose redistribution of wealth because they have biased information about how wealthy most people actually are, a new study says.

People use their own neighbourhoods and communities as a gauge of how much wealth other people possess. This leads wealthy people to perceive the broader population as being wealthier than it actually is.

“These results suggest that the rich and poor do not simply have different attitudes about how wealth should be distributed across society; rather, they subjectively experience living in different societies,” said lead author Rael Dawtry, psychological scientist at the University of Kent.

“If you’re rich, there’s a good chance you know lots of other rich people and relatively few poor people; likewise, if you’re poor, you’re likely to know fewer wealthy people and more poorer ones,” said co-author Robbie Sutton, professor of social psychology, University of Kent.

The attitudes toward wealth distribution stem from more than just an economic motivation to protect one’s self-interest or a fiscally conservative political ideology.

The research recruited over 600 adults to complete an online survey in two studies. The participants were asked to estimate the distribution of annual household income for their social contacts and were asked how fair they thought income distribution was and how satisfied they were with it.

The results reveal a link between participants’ personal household income and their attitudes toward redistribution that was driven by average social-circle income.

Household income was linked to estimated social-circle income. This in turn was linked to estimated population income, which was linked to perceived fairness.

This was finally linked to attitudes toward redistribution. This chain-like relationship remained even after the researchers took participants’ political orientation and perceived self-interest into account.

“Attitudes to redistribution and the economic status quo appear to be subject to informational biases in the environment as well as biases in the mind,” Dawtry said.

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