Rich People May Be Smart, but the Lower Class Is Wise

A migrant reads during a French lesson given by volunteers at a 'Centre dAccueil et dOrientation pour migrants' (CAO - Reception and Orientation Center for Migrants) in Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, western France, on January 4, 2017. Volunteers in Saint-Brevin-les-Pins are helping 47 migrants coming from the recently-demolished 'Jungle' migrant camp in Calais, giving them French lessons and even football training in order to help them to better integrate into French society, AFP reported on January 10, 2017. Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

Those who fall into the lower social class may have more wisdom than individuals with more wealth, according to a new study.

The research—published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society—found that wisdom-related qualities, such as open-mindedness, are more present in people of lower social class compared to those considered upper class. More specifically, the findings revealed that taking other people's perspective into account and working towards an agreement was easier for the working class.

"This is not surprising when we consider our cultural emphasis on intelligence such as IQ, competency to accomplish tasks independently and the focus on self as opposed to the considerations of others, in the reach for success," study author Igor Grossmann, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, said in a statement. "As we continue to focus as a society on independence and entitlement among the middle class, we are also inadvertently eroding wisdom and reasoning in favor of a more self-centered population."

"This work represents the cutting edge in wisdom research."

— News from Science (@NewsfromScience) December 20, 2017

Grossmann and co-author Justin Brienza, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo when the research was conducted, carried out two experiments. The first involved an online survey of more than 2,000 people living in the United States who came from varying social classes.

Participants were asked to recall a recent situation that happened with a friend or in the workplace. They were then asked to respond to 21 statements, which measured how often or not they engaged with wise reasoning. Upon answering all the questions, each participant received two scores: one for "wise reasoning" and another for "social class." Results revealed that individuals with the lowest social class scores had higher scores for wise reasoning compared to people in higher social classes.

Although the findings were consistent—three separate analyses confirmed that the higher the social class, the lower the wise reasoning scores—the authors were concerned that the nature of the study may have biased the results by including more working- and middle-class participants, they note in the paper.

Therefore, Grossmann and Brienza conducted a second experiment with a broader range of people, including affluent and non-working, poor individuals. About 200 people participated in the research, which involved a standard IQ test and a wise reasoning interview.

During the interviews, participants were presented with fictional newspaper articles about conflicts between two equally powerful groups from a foreign country. They were then asked a few questions: 'What do you think will happen after that?'; 'Why do you think it will happen this way?'; and 'Anything else?' Each participant received a score based on how their responses related to the wise reasoning scale.

The second experiment yielded similar results as the first: those with more wealth had lower wise reasoning scores. And even though many of the wealthier people in the study scored high on intelligence measuring tests, their results weren't associated with wise reasoning.

"I would not be surprised if the result is even more pronounced in the extremely wealthy, but we don't have the data to speak to it yet," Grossmann told Science.