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(BAC G1-G2-H 2012)

Life for the lower class is very difficult and short. For this reason pitiless rich people might suppose that people in the lower social classes will be more self-interested and less inclined to consider the welfare of others than upper-class individuals, study, however, challenges this idea. Experiments by Paul Piff and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, reported this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests precisely the opposite. It is the poor, not the rich, who are inclined to charity.

In their experiment, Dr Piff and his team recruited 115 people. To start with, these volunteers were asked to engage in a series of imaginary activities, in order to create a misleading impression of the purpose of the research. Eventually, each was told he had been paired with an anonymous partner seated in a different room. Participants were given ten credits and advised that their task was to decide how many of these credits they wanted to keep for themselves and how many (if any) they wished to transfer to their partner. They were also told that the credits they had at the end of the game would be worth real money and that their partners would have no ability to interfere with the outcome.
A week before the game was run, participants were asked their ethnic backgrounds, sex, age, frequency of attendance at religious services and socioeconomic status. During this part of the study, they were presented with a drawing of a ladder with ten rungs on it. Each rung represented people of different levels of education, income and occupational status. They were asked to place an "X" on the rung they felt corresponded to where they stood relative to others their status in their own community. ,
The average number of credits people gave away was 4.1. However, and analysis, of the results showed that generosity increased as participants' assessment of their own social status fell. Those from lower classes? Who put their crosses at the top from upper classes? Even when the effects of age, sex, ethnicity and religiousness had been accounted for?
In this case priming made no difference to the lower classes. They always showed compassion to the latecomer. The upper classes, though, could be influenced.
One interpretation of all this might be that selfish people find it easier to become rich. However, scientists classified people by the income of the family in which the participant grew up and revealed that whether high status was inherited or earned made no difference so the idea that it is the self-made who are especially selfish does not work. The increased compassion which seems to exist among the poor increases generosity and helpfulness, and promotes a level of trust and co-operation that can prove essential for survival during hard times.

- welfare: bien être
- a ladder: une échelle
- a ladder rung: une marche de l'échelle
- botton:

Guided commentary:
1) Why are poor people believed to be naturally selfish? (3 points)
2) According to the text, who is more charitable between the lower and the upper class? (3 points)
3) Explain the results of the experiment conducted in text. (4 points)
4) Explain the concept of rungs as used in the text. (4 points)
5) What suggestions would you adopt to reduce poverty in your country? (6 points)

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