Upper class people do look down on others as they have exaggerated belief they are better

Upper class people really do look down on others as they have an exaggerated belief they are better, psychologists say.

Those with more education, more income and a higher perceived social class believed that they would perform better than others – when it is not true.

When researchers looked at actual performance, those from a higher social class only thought they did better than others and this was not reflected in the results.

But this confidence can be misinterpreted by job interviewers and have the effect of making upper-class people look more competent, tests showed.

This overconfidence effect may be partially due to differences in values between the middle and working classes, the team from the University of Virginia said.

They say that social class shapes attitudes that people hold about their abilities and upper class people feel encouraged to express what they think and feel confidently, even if they lack accurate knowledge.

In comparison working-class people may be more likely to embrace values of humility, authenticity and “knowing your place in the hierarchy.”

Lead author Assistant Professor Dr Peter Belmi said: “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.

“Individuals with relatively high social class were more overconfident, which in turn was associated with being perceived as more competent and ultimately more hireable, even though, on average, they were no better at the trivia test than their lower-class counterparts.

“In the middle class, people are socialised 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 socialised to embrace the values of humility, authenticity and knowing your place in the hierarchy.

“These findings challenge the widely held belief that everybody thinks they are better than the average.

“Our results suggest that this type of thinking might be more prevalent among the middle and upper classes.

“These findings challenge the widely held belief that everybody thinks they are better than the average.

“Our results suggest that this type of thinking might be more prevalent among the middle and upper classes, suggesting that finding solutions to mitigate class inequalities may require a focus on subtle and seemingly harmless human tendencies.

“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.”

The researchers carried out four investigations looking at the link between social class and overconfidence and how that might affect perceptions of a person’s competence.

The largest trial asked more than 150,000 small business owners in Mexico applying for loans for information about their income, education and perceived standing in society.

They then played a flashcard game where participants were shown one image and then a second.

They then had to determine whether the second image matches the first.

After carrying out the cognitive test 20 times, applicants were asked to indicate how they think they performed in comparison with others on a scale of 1 to 100.

Researchers found that those who perceived themselves to be of a higher class believed they had done better than those who said they were of a lower class – but this was not reflected in the test results.

In another two trials, 1,400 people were asked to complete a trivia test and then say how they thought they did.

Those from a higher social class thought they did better than others but when researchers examined their performance this was not the case.

For the final investigation, 236 undergraduate students had to each answer a 15 question trivia quiz and were then asked to predict how they fared compared with others.

They were also asked to rate their social class and to state their families’ income and their mothers’ and fathers’ education levels.

A week later, the students were brought back to the lab for a videotaped mock hiring interview. More than 900 judges watched each of the applicant’s videos and rated their impression of the applicant’s competence.

The researchers found students from a higher social class tended to be more overconfident, but that this overconfidence was misinterpreted by judges as being more competent.

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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