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Science Confirms that Rich People Think They're Better Than You (and Better Than They Really Are, Too)

Ever wonder how rich people can seem so confident and sure of themselves, especially when they don't actually seem to be that competent? The reason, according to a new study, is just that: they're rich.

A new study out of the University of Virginia shows that people in higher social classes tend to have an exaggerated belief that they are better than others.

"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, lead author of the study.

These beliefs aren't harmless, either: they can make people believe that they are smarter or more competent than they actually are, leading richer people to land jobs they might not be qualified for, thus stopping people who are legitimately qualified from getting those same jobs.

Researchers came to these conclusions after conducting four different studies on the relationship between social class and confidence. The largest involved over 150,000 small business owners in Mexico who were applying for loans.

The applicants' social class was measured by their income, among other things. Their confidence was measured through a questionnaire, which the applicants completed while under the assumption that the questions were meant to determine their credit worthiness.

They found that people with higher social status were much more likely to assume that they had done better than they actually had on the quiz they were given. These results were echoed among the other three studies that were conducted.

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


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