Social Class Clash: A Dyadic Model of Social Affiliation in Cross-Class and Same-Class Interactions
69 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2014
Date Written: September 29, 2014
One potential consequence of economic inequality is reduced affiliation between people from different social classes. To investigate this notion, we examine levels of social affiliation – thoughts and behaviors that connect people and promote closeness among interaction partners – of upper- and lower-class people in interpersonal interactions with upper- and lower-class partners. In Study 1, the association between participants’ social class and affiliative behavior varied depending on the social class of their friends: This association was positive with upper-class friends, but negative with lower-class friends. Study 2 revealed a similar pattern among strangers who interacted in the laboratory. Study 3 revealed that this pattern is mediated by perceived similarity: Upper-class actors affiliate more with upper-class partners because they perceive they are more similar to them than lower-class actors, and vice versa for lower-class partners. Study 4 showed that an intervention that boosts perceived similarity to partners from different classes increases affiliation in cross-class interactions: Post-intervention levels of affiliation in cross-class interactions were comparable to pre-intervention levels in same-class interactions. We discuss the implications of the findings for debates about inequality, whether some negative consequences of inequality can be reduced through intervention, and the link between social class and social affiliation.
Keywords: social class, socioeconomic status, social affiliation, social interaction
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