According to new research published by Robbie Sutton and co-workers, this may be because they have biased information about how wealthy most people actually are. Published in the journal “Psychological Science”, the findings indicate that people use their own neighbourhoods and communities as a gauge of how much wealth other people possess, leading wealthy people to perceive the broader population as being wealthier than it actually is.
“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 Robbie.
“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,” adds psychological scientist Rael Dawtry here at the University of Kent, the study’s lead author.
The research, also co-authored by Chris Sibley of the University of Auckland, recruited over 600 US 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 also for the entire US population.
According to Robbie, the findings may also help to explain the political polarization observed in countries liked the United States. He added “As richer and poorer people increasingly live segregated lives, the information available to becomes increasingly distorted, and increasingly different.”