UBC Theses and Dissertations
SES, inequality and me : the effects of subjective socioeconomic status and perceived economic inequality on self-centeredness Schmalor, Anita
Economic inequality is on the rise in much of the world and has been associated with increased anxiety about one’s position in the social hierarchy (i.e., socioeconomic status; SES) and downstream consequences such as increased competitiveness and antisocial behaviour, decreased trust and well-being and other social ills. High socioeconomic status is characterized by a greater access to valued resources and leads to a heightened sense of power which has also been associated with downstream consequences such as increased unethical behaviour and dominance and decreased empathic accuracy. In this thesis, I aimed to replicate the previously found associations between SES and unethical behaviour, dominance, and empathic accuracy and I extended the research on economic inequality by exploring the relationship between inequality and the same outcome variables. I further built on previous research by bringing these two economic factors, inequality and SES, together and exploring their interactive effects. To the extent that the effects of SES on different outcome variables are mediated through a heightened sense of power caused by a greater access to valued resources by high SES individuals, this sense of power should be increased under conditions of higher economic inequality where the distance between people of high and low SES in the amount of resources they have is further exacerbated. While I did not replicate the previously found association between SES and unethical behaviour (Chapter 2), I found a positive association between SES and dominance expectations (Chapter 3) and a negative association between SES and empathic accuracy (Chapter 4). In line with the hypotheses, there was further largely a positive association between perceived inequality and unethical behaviour and dominance and a negative association between perceived inequality and empathic accuracy, and the effects of SES on dominance and empathic accuracy were most pronounced under conditions of high perceived economic inequality. But there was no interaction between SES and inequality in predicting unethical behaviour. Taken together, these results suggest that the effects of SES may depend on the amount of inequality people perceive. In this thesis, I focused on people’s perceptions of both SES and inequality which I assessed and manipulated.
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