Social hierarchies are maintained in part because those in dominant and subordinate groups think and behave differently. These differences are both a consequence of stratification and a proximal cause of it.
Power is perhaps the clearest determinant of social interdependence. Those in positions of power are independent of others because their own outcomes are unaffected by others’ actions, whereas those without power are inherently interdependent because their outcomes are controlled by others’ actions. Independence is not an ancillary feature of social power; it is the defining feature. ~ Nicholas Epley & Adam Waytz
As with status differences associated with gender, societal stratification has wide-ranging effects, beginning with warping people’s minds. People who feel powerful are less likely to attend to others in conversations. Hence, they are less able to accurately identify the interests and attitudes of those with whom they socially interact, and less inclined to see things from other people’s perspectives: an empathy drain via apathy.
Power shapes emotional responsiveness to other people’s suffering. ~ Dutch social psychologist Gerben van Kleef
People who feel in a position of power are less likely to empathize or experience compassion. They are more likely to exploit others and treat them as mindless objects.
This lack of empathy does not go unnoticed. High-status individuals are commonly considered insincere when their behavior is contrite.
The expression of emotions after a transgression are perceived as less authentic and less sincere when they are made by a high-status person. Accordingly, people are less inclined to forgive high-status people than those with lower status. The more senior the position, the more we are inclined to assume that they are better at controlling their emotions and are using emotions strategically. Because we believe that they are trying to achieve something, we perceive them as less sincere in the same situation. ~ Israeli social psychologist Arik Cheshin
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Even thinking about money enables a feeling of independence and decreases the tendency to adopt another’s perspective during a conversation.
Money brings about a self-sufficient orientation. ~ Kathleen Vohs
It is not that people in a position of power are unable to consider others if specifically motivated to do so. Rather, possessing a sense of independence diminishes people’s tendency to care about others. Conversely, those motivated to connect with others are more likely to attend to their emotions and mimic others’ behaviors in social interactions.
Mind perception is critical in interdependent contexts, and those contexts activate one’s mind perception abilities. ~ Nicholas Epley & Adam Waytz
The importance of a relationship affects attentiveness. People are more likely to seek information for mind perception when they expect to meet them in the future and are more likely to accommodate another’s perspective when effective communication is important to them.
People who feel interdependent are more likely to attribute mental states to nonhuman agents, such as pets and electronic gadgets. Overactive mentalizing is an evolutionary adaptive response to feeling vulnerable. The actions of those perceived as a threat – and hence more independent from them – are perceived as more intentional than those who are not considered a threat.