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.