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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Socioeconomic status predicts meta-perceptions : how, why, and so what? Engstrom, Holly R.


How might a person’s socioeconomic status (SES) affect how she thinks others see her (her meta-perceptions)? One possibility is that people derive their meta-perceptions from cultural stereotypes: That is, low SES people may expect others to see them as warmer, but less competent, than those with high SES. However, low SES people tend to see themselves more negatively and have more negative expectations for how they will present themselves than those with high SES. Thus, another possibility is that low SES people expect others to see them as both colder and less competent than those with high SES. Seven studies, three of them pre-registered, supported the latter possibility: Low SES people thought they would be seen more negatively in terms of both warmth and competence, compared to those with high SES. This occurred in hypothetical interactions (Study 1A-1B), live in-lab interactions (Study 2), and online chat conversations (Study 3A-4B), and was mediated by lower-SES people’s more negative self-views and expectations for self-presentation (Study 1B). However, these expectations were not accurate: Low SES people were not seen differently by others, and if anything were worse at guessing how others saw them (Study 2 but not Study 4A-4B). Moreover, low SES people were more likely than high SES people to believe that negative feedback they received in both warmth (Study 3A-3B) and competence (Study 4A-4B) domains was their own fault; this was related to their more negative meta-perceptions. This thesis uncovers a novel way in which SES affects how people think about interpersonal interactions, and highlights the consequences for attributions for negative feedback and potentially, inequality.

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