Powerful people respond to injustice selectively

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New York, June 7 (IANS) Powerful people respond quickly to unfair treatment when they are the victims. However, they are less likely to notice injustice when others are victimised, says the study.

“The findings help explain the persistence of income inequality and ‘white privilege’,” said lead researcher Takuya Sawaoka, a doctoral student in psychology at Stanford University.

In one online experiment with 227 participants, the high-power group wrote about a time when they had power over someone else while the low-power group wrote about an experience when someone had power over them.

Each participant then played a computer game where their reaction times were measured in deciding the fairness of the distribution of coins between the participant and two computer-generated players.

The high-power group responded more quickly than the low-power group when they were the victims of unfairness but not when they benefited from an unfair distribution of the imaginary wealth.

“Our findings also suggest that powerful people are slower to notice unfair situations that victimise other people. This converges with other research demonstrating that the powerful are less empathetic to the plight of others,” Sawaoka said.

In another experiment, 100 participants played a game where they were either beneficiaries or victims of an unfair distribution of wages by an employer.

When participants were treated unfairly, the high-power group switched more quickly to another employer, while the low-power group stayed with the same employer longer even though they had received lower wages.

“Whites may be very quick to notice and respond to perceived injustices, but this entitlement also could make them less likely to notice injustices that victimise minorities,” the study said.

The findings were published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

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