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Concept: Class consciousness


Does being from a higher social class lead a person to engage in more or less prosocial behavior? Psychological research has recently provided support for a negative effect of social class on prosocial behavior. However, research outside the field of psychology has mainly found evidence for positive or u-shaped relations. In the present research, we therefore thoroughly examined the effect of social class on prosocial behavior. Moreover, we analyzed whether this effect was moderated by the kind of observed prosocial behavior, the observed country, and the measure of social class. Across eight studies with large and representative international samples, we predominantly found positive effects of social class on prosociality: Higher class individuals were more likely to make a charitable donation and contribute a higher percentage of their family income to charity (32,090 ≥ N ≥ 3,957; Studies 1-3), were more likely to volunteer (37,136 ≥N ≥ 3,964; Studies 4-6), were more helpful (N = 3,902; Study 7), and were more trusting and trustworthy in an economic game when interacting with a stranger (N = 1,421; Study 8) than lower social class individuals. Although the effects of social class varied somewhat across the kinds of prosocial behavior, countries, and measures of social class, under no condition did we find the negative effect that would have been expected on the basis of previous results reported in the psychological literature. Possible explanations for this divergence and implications are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Household income in the United States, Social class, Working class, Relations of production, Class consciousness


We theorize that people’s social class affects their appraisals of others' motivational relevance-the degree to which others are seen as potentially rewarding, threatening, or otherwise worth attending to. Supporting this account, three studies indicate that social classes differ in the amount of attention their members direct toward other human beings. In Study 1, wearable technology was used to film the visual fields of pedestrians on city streets; higher-class participants looked less at other people than did lower-class participants. In Studies 2a and 2b, participants' eye movements were tracked while they viewed street scenes; higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. In Study 3, a change-detection procedure assessed the degree to which human faces spontaneously attract visual attention; faces proved less effective at drawing the attention of high-class than low-class participants, which implies that class affects spontaneous relevance appraisals. The measurement and conceptualization of social class are discussed.

Concepts: Sociology, Social class, Working class, Social classes, Class consciousness


Social rank in human and nonhuman animals is signaled by a variety of behaviors and phenotypes. In this research, we examined whether a sartorial manipulation of social class would engender class-consistent behavior and physiology during dyadic interactions. Male participants donned clothing that signaled either upper-class (business-suit) or lower-class (sweatpants) rank prior to engaging in a modified negotiation task with another participant unaware of the clothing manipulation. Wearing upper-class, compared to lower-class, clothing induced dominance-measured in terms of negotiation profits and concessions, and testosterone levels-in participants. Upper-class clothing also elicited increased vigilance in perceivers of these symbols: Relative to perceiving lower-class symbols, perceiving upper-class symbols increased vagal withdrawal, reduced perceptions of social power, and catalyzed physiological contagion such that perceivers' sympathetic nervous system activation followed that of the upper-class target. Discussion focuses on the dyadic process of social class signaling within social interactions. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Behavior, Social class, Working class, Relations of production, Class consciousness


Recent evidence suggests that perceptions of social class rank influence a variety of social cognitive tendencies, from patterns of causal attribution to moral judgment. In the present studies we tested the hypotheses that upper-class rank individuals would be more likely to endorse essentialist lay theories of social class categories (i.e., that social class is founded in genetically based, biological differences) than would lower-class rank individuals and that these beliefs would decrease support for restorative justice-which seeks to rehabilitate offenders, rather than punish unlawful action. Across studies, higher social class rank was associated with increased essentialism of social class categories (Studies 1, 2, and 4) and decreased support for restorative justice (Study 4). Moreover, manipulated essentialist beliefs decreased preferences for restorative justice (Study 3), and the association between social class rank and class-based essentialist theories was explained by the tendency to endorse beliefs in a just world (Study 2). Implications for how class-based essentialist beliefs potentially constrain social opportunity and mobility are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Sociology, All rights reserved, Justice, Social class, Essentialism, Working class, Relations of production, Class consciousness


This review synthesizes research on social class and prosocial behavior. Individuals of lower social class display increased attention to others and greater sensitivity to others' welfare compared to individuals of higher social class, who exhibit more self-oriented patterns of social cognition. As a result, lower-class individuals are more likely to engage in other-beneficial prosocial behavior, whereas higher-class individuals are more prone to engage in self-beneficial behavior. Although the extant evidence indicates that higher social class standing may tend to undermine prosocial impulses, we propose that the effects of social class on prosocial behavior may also depend on three crucial factors: motivation, identity, and inequality. We discuss how and why these factors may moderate class differences in prosociality and offer promising lines of inquiry for future research.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Social class, Relations of production, Anthony Giddens, Class consciousness


Most understandings of the ways classes become social groupings centre on processes of mobility closure whereby mutual appreciation and recognition within classes arise from homogenous experiences over time. The mapping of such structured biographies, however, remains understudied. This paper explores intra- and intergenerational mobility patterns in the upper strata of the Norwegian class structure and aims to include temporal processes and multiple forms of capital in the quantification of class trajectories. By combining multiple correspondence analysis and social sequence analysis, two important but often neglected aspects of recruitment to the upper class are emphasized: first, by introducing multiple forms of capital, different ways of maintaining mobility closure are demonstrated; second, different pathways to power are highlighted by distinguishing between divergent class careers. A key aim of the analysis is to explore internal divisions within the upper class in forms of parental capital (an ‘origin space’) and link these divisions to a typology of ‘destination careers’ in adulthood. The analysis suggests that individuals from modest origins are more likely to have careers that feature a biographically late arrival and/or short-term affiliations to upper-class positions whereas individuals from families rich in capital are more likely to have stable careers in the upper-class fractions from which they originate. The analysis thus reveals important divisions in the trajectories of Norwegians who reach the upper class; not only are there differences in their upbringing in terms of the availability of different amounts and types of capital but such divisions also seem linked to their own class careers later in adulthood.

Concepts: Sociology, Working class, Pierre Bourdieu, Class consciousness


Social class has traditionally played a key role in explaining social behaviour and cognition. However, recent analyses have been dominated by the view that the relevance of class for behaviour has dwindled in advanced industrial societies. We contest this view by focusing on the subjective components of class consciousness. Using a national survey of Danish citizens, we show that individuals continue to hold meaningful conceptions of classes, to identify with them and, moreover, to perceive substantial levels of differences between them with these latter beliefs being strongly structured by respondent class identification. These results are all the more intriguing because they stem from a high affluence/low inequality national context that should be a particularly good case for failing to find such rich class perceptions.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Cognition, Perception, Mind, Social class, Marxism, Class consciousness


The present research investigated different types of social class identification as moderators of the negative relation between social class and mental health problems. Psychology undergraduates (N = 355) completed an online survey that included measures of social class, mental health and well-being, and three aspects of social class identification: importance of identity, salience of identity, and perceived self-class similarity. Perceived self-class similarity buffered the negative association between social class and depressive symptoms. However, importance and salience of social class identity amplified the associations between social class and anxiety and life satisfaction. These findings contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of the way in which social identification may operate as a social cure.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Mental disorder, Social class, Equality, Marxism, Relations of production, Class consciousness


Asking participants to assess their social class may be an efficient approach to examining inequalities in heath from survey data. The present study investigated this possibility empirically by testing whether subjective class identification is related to overall health.

Concepts: Present, Health, Sociology, Psychometrics, Social class, Marxism, Relations of production, Class consciousness


The unconscious impact of differences in culture and social class is discussed from the perspective of an analyst practising in London whose ‘foreign accent’ prevents patients from placing her within the social stratifications by which they feel confined. Because she is seen by them as an analyst from both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the British psycho-social fabric and cultural complex, this opens a space in the transference that enables fuller exploration of the impact of the British social class system on patients' experience of themselves and their world. The paper considers this impact as a trans-generational trauma of living in a society of sharp socio-economic divisions based on material property. This is illustrated with the example of a patient who, at the point of moving towards the career to which he aspired, was unable to separate a sense of personal identity from the social class he so desperately wanted to leave behind and walk the long avenue of individuation. The dearth of literature on the subject of class is considered, and the paper concludes that not enough attention is given to class identification in training.

Concepts: Sociology, Social class, Marxism, Class consciousness, Classless society