Does the Working Class Handle Interpersonal Conflicts Better Than The Middle Class?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“working class” by arileu is licensed under CC BY 2.0Igor Grossmann, Ph.D
.
Director, Wisdom and Culture Laboratory
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Waterloo, Canada
Associate Editor, Emotion

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Our Wisdom & Culture laboratory studies the concepts of wisdom and cultural factors. For wisdom, we specifically focus on pragmatic reasoning that can help people to better understand and navigate uncertain contexts – strategies that philosophers for millennia discussed as “epistemic virtues.” In our prior work, my colleagues and I have observed that wisdom tends to be lower in situations when self-interests are salient, and higher when one adopted an socially-sensitive interdependent mindset. In other work by myself and several other labs, consistent finding emerged showing that lower social class tends to be more socially interdependent, whereas middle class (both in the US, Russia, and even China) tends to be more self-focused.

This led to the present research, which combines prior insights to examine how wise reasoning varies across social classes. Because lower class situation involves more uncertainty and more resource-scare life circumstances, we questioned whether these situations would also evoke more wise reasoning from people who are in them. Higher class situations are assumed to provide conditions that benefit people in every way. But in so doing, they may also encourage entitlement, self-focus and thereby intellectual humility and open-mindedness – key features of a wise thought. As such, our studies show that it turns out that middle class conditions are not beneficial in at least one way – they may discourage reasoning wisely.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Across two studies, participants reported on their reasoning about interpersonal conflicts. Conflicts ranged from disagreements over workplace processes and outcomes, to disputes with friends or spouse. In Study 1 specifically, we examined unresolved conflicts with a friend/co-worker/spouse. Participants brought to mind the recent conflict and were asked to reflect on it, upon which we inquired about forms of reasoning they engaged in. In Study 2, we used standardized scenarios involving conflicts between siblings, spouses or family members presented to the same participants. Here, participants’ verbal reflections were scored by raters for prevalence of specific reasoning themes in their reflections. For more details on Study 2 procedure and scenarios, see the wisdom manual on our website (link here).

Overall, we found that the ability to reason within interpersonal relationships with wisdom – be open-minded, recognize limits of one’s knowledge, seek other perspectives on an issue and integrate them together – is negatively associated with social class in North America. Specifically, middle class Americans are less likely to show wisdom in their reflections compared to working class Americans.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our findings point out the drawbacks of middle-class culture in the Western world. Especially in the US, middle class parental styles emphasize uniqueness, individual achievement, and self-serving rationality. Generally, the culture is shifting toward greater self-focus and individualism (we have numerous papers on the latter topic). As we continue to focus as a society on the theme of self-focused rationality, independence and entitlement among the middle class, we are also inadvertently eroding wisdom and reasoning in favor of a more self-centered population.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Not viewing working class as “inferior” in their reasoning can open new doors to a turn in a dialogue about social class divide. Instead of viewing social class divide as due to some genetic factors or individual shortcomings, one can turn to the economic reality of their suffering and try to learn from resilience with which many remarkable working class people approach economic adversity. The latter insights can possibly enrich our culture and society at large. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Not viewing working class as “inferior” in their reasoning can open new doors to a turn in a dialogue about social class divide. Instead of viewing social class divide as due to some genetic factors or individual shortcomings, one can turn to the economic reality of their suffering and try to learn from resilience with which many remarkable working class people approach economic adversity. The latter insights can possibly enrich our culture and society at large. 

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Brienza JP, Grossmann I. 2017 Social class and wise reasoning about interpersonal conflicts across regions, persons and situations. Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20171870. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.1870

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/royprsb/284/1869/20171870.full.pdf

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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