Mark Thoma's Selective Edits
By David Henderson
In a post titled, “Are the Rich Coldhearted?,” Mark Thoma writes:
Why are so many of the rich and powerful so callous and indifferent to the struggles of those who aren’t so fortunate?
He then goes on to quote from an op/ed in the New York Times:
Are the Rich Coldhearted?, by Michael Inzlicht and Sukhvinder Obhi, NY Times: … Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them?
Psychological research suggests the answer is no. …
Why does power leave people seemingly coldhearted? Some, like the Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske, have suggested that powerful people don’t attend well to others around them because they don’t need them in order to access important resources; as powerful people, they already have plentiful access to those.
I wondered what the original op/ed said. I was surprised. It wasn’t titled “Are the Rich Coldhearted?” It was titled “Powerful and Coldhearted.” Here are the first three paragraphs:
I FEEL your pain.
These words are famously associated with Bill Clinton, who as a politician seemed to ooze empathy. A skeptic might wonder, though, whether he truly was personally distressed by the suffering of average Americans. Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them?
Psychological research suggests the answer is no. Studies have repeatedly shown that participants who are in high positions of power (or who are temporarily induced to feel powerful) are less able to adopt the visual, cognitive or emotional perspective of other people, compared to participants who are powerless (or are made to feel so).