Class hierarchies perpetuate from one generation to other


Lifestyle, Sex and Relationship

People from higher social class believe they are better than others: Study.

Individuals with the relatively high social class were more overconfident, which in turn was associated with being perceived as more competent and ultimately more hireable. (Photo: Representational/Pexels)

Washington: A study revealed that people from higher social class have an exaggerated belief in being better than others. According to the study published in 'Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,' the overconfidence can often be misinterpreted by others as greater competence in important situations such as job interviews.

"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," said Peter Belmi, University of Virginia and lead author of the study.

"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," added Belmi. The study was published in the 'Journal of Personality and Social Psychology'.

Belmi and his colleagues conducted a series of four investigations looking at the connection between social class and overconfidence and how that might affect others' perceptions of a person's competence.

The study involved more than 150,000 small business owners in Mexico who were applying for loans. To measure social class, the researchers obtained information about these applicants' income, education level and perceived standing in society as part of the application process.

Applicants were also required to complete a psychological assessment that would be used to assess their credit worthiness. Part of that included a flashcard game, a cognitive test where participants are shown an image that goes away after they press a key and is replaced by a second image. They then have to determine whether the second image matches the first. After completing 20 trials, applicants were asked to indicate how they performed in comparison with others on a scale of 1 to 100.

When the researchers compared the actual scores with applicants' predictions, they found that people with more education, more income and a higher perceived social class had an exaggerated belief that they would perform better than others, compared with their lower-class counterparts.

Another two investigations involving more than 1,400 online participants found a similar association between social class and overconfidence.

"Individuals with the 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," said Belmi.

The overconfidence effect may be partially due to differences in values between the middle and working classes, according to Belmi. The findings join a growing body of research on why class-based hierarchies continue to persist generation after generation, according to Belmi.

"Our results suggest that finding solutions to mitigate class inequalities may require a focus on subtle and seemingly harmless human tendencies," he said. "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."