Paul K. Piff's research while affiliated with University of California, Irvine and other places

Publications (52)

Article
Astronomical events such as solar eclipses have played a transformative role in human social collectives as sources of collective wonder, inspiration, and reconciliation. Do celestial phenomena systematically shape individuals and their groups? Guided by scientific treatments of awe as an experience that helps individuals form into collectives, we...
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Americans venerate rags-to-riches stories. Here we show that people view those who became rich more positively than those born rich, and expect the Became Rich to be more sympathetic toward social welfare (Studies 1a-b). However, we also find that these intuitions are misguided. Surveys of wealthy individuals (Studies 2a-b) reveal that, compared to...
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People believe that effort is valuable, but what kind of value does it confer? We find that displays of effort signal moral character. Eight studies (N = 5,502) demonstrate the nature of these effects in the domains of paid employment, personal fitness, and charitable fundraising. The exertion of effort is deemed morally admirable (Studies 1-6) and...
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From an early age, children recognize that people belong to social groups. However, not all groups are structured in the same way. The current study asked whether children recognize and distinguish among different decision-making structures. If so, do they prefer some decision-making structures over others? In these studies, children were told stor...
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Savoring-an emotion-regulation strategy that involves deliberately upregulating positive affect-has many benefits, but what enhances savoring in the present moment? Drawing from life-history theory, affective and developmental science, and social-psychological frameworks, we examined the idea that perceptions of uncertainty--perceiving the world as...
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The affective, identity based, and often negative nature of partisan polarization in the United States has been a subject of much scholarly attention. Applying insights from recent work in social psychology, we employ three novel large-N, broadly representative online surveys, fielded over the course of 4 years, across two presidential administrati...
Article
The novel Coronavirus that spread around the world in early 2020 triggered a global pandemic and economic downturn that affected nearly everyone. Yet the crisis had a disproportionate impact on the poor and revealed how easily working-class individuals' financial security can be destabilised by factors beyond personal control. In a pre-registered l...
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How do interactions with an ideologically extreme online community affect cognition? In this paper, we examine whether engagement with an online neo-Nazi forum is associated with more one-sided, “black and white” thinking. Using naturalistic language data, we examined differences in integrative complexity, a measure of the degree to which people ac...
Preprint
The novel Coronavirus that spread around the world in early 2020 triggered a global pandemic and economic downturn that affected nearly everyone. Yet the crisis had a disproportionate impact on the poor and revealed how easily working-class individuals’ financial security can be destabilised by factors beyond personal control. In a pre-registered l...
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Full-text available
Does exposure to income inequality in adolescence relate to well-being in adulthood? In Studies 1 and 2 ( N = 888), individuals who grew up in U.S. counties with higher income inequality expected greater benefits of financial success as adults, were more likely to base their self-worth on money, and felt less happy and satisfied with their lives. U...
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Materialism – the ideation and overemphasis of physical possessions, status and image values – is highly prevalent in present-day societies, and is associated with numerous psychological and societal costs. In three studies, we tested whether exposure to nature versus urban environments would be associated with decreased materialism. In Study 1, us...
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Does belief in free will increase support for economic inequality? Five studies using diverse measures and methods tested this question. Study 1 finds belief in free will is associated with increased support for inequality. Study 2 manipulates belief in free will and does not find evidence that this changes support for inequality. Studies 3 and 4 f...
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Amidst rising economic inequality and mounting evidence of its pernicious social effects, what motivates opposition to inequality? Five studies (n = 34,442) show that attributing poverty to situational forces is associated with greater concern about inequality, preference for egalitarian policies and inequality-reducing behaviour. In Study 1, situa...
Preprint
How do interactions with an ideologically extreme online community affect cognition? In this paper, we examine whether engagement with an online neo-Nazi forum is associated with more one-sided, “black and white” thinking. Using naturalistic language data, we examined differences in integrative complexity, a measure of the degree to which people ac...
Preprint
People believe that effort is valuable, but what kind of value does it confer? We find that displays of effort signal moral character. Importantly, we focus on displays of unproductive or unnecessary effort to highlight the heuristic nature of these intuitions—even “useless” effort is deemed virtuous. We conducted five studies to demonstrate the na...
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Past research has documented myriad pernicious psychological effects of high economic inequality, prompting interest into how people perceive, evaluate, and react to inequality. Here we propose, refine, and validate the Support for Economic Inequality Scale (SEIS)–a novel measure of attitudes towards economic inequality. In Study 1, we distill eigh...
Article
Objectives: Subjective and objective social status is associated with weight status, but this relationship differs by sex and the mechanisms remain unclear. Methods: This randomized study in Hispanic adolescents investigated the effects of experimentally manipulated social status on ad libitum acute and 24-hour dietary intakes and stress-related...
Article
A vast literature in social psychology documents that people's actions are influenced by their social environment (e.g., other people). But how are people affected by the relatively 'asocial' natural environment? We review a growing body of evidence finding that nature can enhance social connection. Incidental exposure to the natural environment ca...
Preprint
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In five studies, we test whether belief in free will influences support for economic inequality. Study 1 shows that on a country-level, belief in free will is correlated with support for economic inequality. Study 2 demonstrates that individuals with stronger belief in free will are more likely to support inequality. In Studies 3 and 4, we manipula...
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Research in marketing often begins with two assumptions: that consumers are able to choose among desirable products, and that they have sufficient resources to buy them. However, many consumer decision journeys are constrained by a scarcity of products and/or a scarcity of resources. We review research in marketing, psychology, economics and sociol...
Preprint
Materialism, or the ideation and pursuit of physical possessions, is a near human universal that has been associated with numerous psychological and societal costs. We tested whether exposure to grand nature – vast natural environments that can make individuals feel relatively small – would be associated with reductions in materialism. In Study 1,...
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Human behaviour has had an immense impact on natural environments. Often this impact has caused environmental degradation and impaired the possibilities for living well across the planet and especially for future generations. This calls for a specific target in reversing the current trend—namely to change human behaviour itself. By changing human b...
Article
Individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) display increased attentiveness to others and greater prosocial behavior compared to individuals of higher SES. We situate these effects within Pepper & Nettle's contextually appropriate response framework of SES. We argue that increased prosocial behavior is a contextually adaptive response for lower...
Article
Humility is a foundational virtue that counters selfish inclinations such as entitlement, arrogance, and narcissism (Tangney, 2000). We hypothesize that experiences of awe promote greater humility. Guided by an appraisal-tendency framework of emotion, we propose that when individuals encounter an entity that is vast and challenges their worldview,...
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In this article we review the emerging literature on the self-transcendent emotions. We discuss how the self-transcendent emotions differ from other positive emotions and outline the defining features of this category. We then provide an analysis of three specific self-transcendent emotions—compassion, gratitude, and awe—detailing what has been lea...
Article
This review synthesizes research on social class and prosocial behavior. Individuals of lower social class display increased attention to others and greater sensitivity to others’ welfare compared to individuals of higher social class, who exhibit more self-oriented patterns of social cognition. As a result, lower-class individuals are more likely...
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Historically high levels of economic inequality likely have important consequences for relationships between people of the same and different social class backgrounds. Here, we test the prediction that social affiliation among same-class partners is stronger at the extremes of the class spectrum, given that these groups are highly distinctive and m...
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Why does economic inequality continue to rise despite being disfavored and harmful to individuals and society? To better understand this inequality paradox, we advance an inequality maintenance model of social class. We detail a set of five propositions to encapsulate the psychological processes that perpetuate class division in society-disparities...
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Having international social ties carries many potential advantages, including access to novel ideas and greater commercial opportunities. Yet little is known about who forms more international friendships. Here, we propose social class plays a key role in determining people's internationalism. We conducted two studies to test whether social class i...
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Awe is an emotional response to perceptually vast stimuli that transcend current frames of reference. Guided by conceptual analyses of awe as a collective emotion, across 5 studies (N = 2,078) we tested the hypothesis that awe can result in a diminishment of the individual self and its concerns, and increase prosocial behavior. In a representative...
Article
Past studies have documented interpersonal benefits of natural environments. Across four studies, we tested the hypothesis that exposure to more beautiful nature, relative to less beautiful nature, increases prosocial behavior. Study 1 yielded correlational evidence indicating that participants prone to perceiving natural beauty reported greater pr...
Article
The study of prosocial behavior-altruism, cooperation, trust, and the related moral emotions-has matured enough to produce general scholarly consensus that prosociality is widespread, intuitive, and rooted deeply within our biological makeup. Several evolutionary frameworks model the conditions under which prosocial behavior is evolutionarily viabl...
Article
Americans may be more narcissistic now than ever, but narcissism is not evenly distributed across social strata. Five studies demonstrated that higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism. Upper-class individuals reported greater psychological entitlement (Studies 1a, 1b, and 2) and narcissistic personality tendencie...
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In the current research we tested a comprehensive model of spirituality, religiosity, compassion, and altruism, investigating the independent effects of spirituality and religiosity on compassion and altruism. We hypothesized that, even though spirituality and religiosity are closely related, spirituality and religiosity would have different and un...
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Past research argues that religious commitments shape individuals’ prosocial sentiments, including their generosity and solidarity. But what drives the prosociality of less religious people? Three studies tested the hypothesis that, with fewer religious expectations of prosociality, less religious individuals’ levels of compassion will play a large...
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Though scholars have speculated for centuries on links between individuals' social class standing and approach to moral reasoning, little systematic research exists on how class and morality are associated. Here, we investigate whether the tendency of upper-class individuals to exhibit reduced empathy makes them more likely to resist intuitionist o...
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Chaotic conditions are a prevalent and threatening feature of social life. Five studies examined whether social class underlies divergent responses to perceptions of chaos in one's social environments and outcomes. The authors hypothesized that when coping with perceptions of chaos, lower class individuals tend to prioritize community, relative to...
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Social class is shaped by an individual's material resources as well as perceptions of rank vis-à-vis others in society, and in this article, we examine how class influences behavior. Diminished resources and lower rank create contexts that constrain social outcomes for lower-class individuals and enhance contextualist tendencies--that is, a focus...
Article
How do extreme degrees of positive emotion-such as those characteristic of mania-influence emotion perception? The present study investigated how mania proneness, assessed using the Hypomanic Personality Scale, influences the perception of emotion via touch. Using a validated dyadic interaction paradigm for communicating emotion through touch (Hert...
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Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likel...
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People can experience great distress when a group to which they belong (in-group) is perceived to have committed an immoral act. We hypothesised that people would direct hostility toward a transgressing in-group whose actions threaten their self-image and evoke collective shame. Consistent with this theorising, three studies found that reminders of...
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Social class reflects more than the material conditions of people’s lives. Objective resources (e.g., income) shape cultural practices and behaviors that signal social class. These signals create cultural identities among upper- and lower-class individuals—identities that are rooted in subjective perceptions of social-class rank vis-à-vis others. E...
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Although the stigma of mental illness has been widely documented, the specific processes through which psychiatric labels evoke prejudice and discrimination are not well understood. We examined how ascribing humanity to an individual labeled with mental illness may influence perceptions of dangerousness and motivations for social rejection. Study 1...
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Lower social class (or socioeconomic status) is associated with fewer resources, greater exposure to threat, and a reduced sense of personal control. Given these life circumstances, one might expect lower class individuals to engage in less prosocial behavior, prioritizing self-interest over the welfare of others. The authors hypothesized, by contr...
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Lower social class is associated with diminished resources and perceived subordinate rank. On the basis of this analysis, the authors predicted that social class would be closely associated with a reduced sense of personal control and that this association would explain why lower class individuals favor contextual over dispositional explanations of...

Citations

... If people perceive both that cooperation requires self-control (Righetti & Finkenauer, 2011), and that regular self-discipline trains self-control, they may moralize effortful activities (e.g., waking up early, spiritual disciplines, needless hard-work), as means to "build character"-i.e., to improve the self-control required to honor prosocial obligations. This helps explaining another component of the puritanical constellation: the moralization of constant self-discipline, needless hard work, and unproductive effort, even when the latter are devoid of direct benefits to other people (Celniker et al., 2022;Tierney et al., 2021). ...
... We still have much to learn about how to increase people's capacity to savor positive experiences. As Gregory et al. (2021) noted, "surprisingly little is known about what enhances savoring in the moment" (p. 1). Research suggests momentary savoring is heightened by mindfulness (Cheung and Ng, 2020), novelty (Mitas and Bastiaansen, 2018), awareness of temporal scarcity (Kurtz, 2008), and perceptions of uncertainty (Gregory et al., 2021), but diminished by impatience (House et al., 2014), perfectionism (Smith and Bryant, 2012), reminders of wealth (Quoidbach et al., 2010b), and a sense of experiential abundance (Quoidbach et al., 2015a). ...
... generally has a greater impact on "the working-class" than on "the wealthy," and research has similarly shown that, on average, people think that those in poverty have been negatively impacted by the pandemic (Wiwad et al., 2021). This pattern holds for judgments of more specific COVID-related events with obvious financial or health implications-in a Supplemental Study (reported for brevity in the Appendix), participants from Prolific judged events such as having to miss work for caregiving responsibilities, seeking medical treatment for coronavirus symptoms, or having electric and heating bills increase to be more harmful for individuals in poverty than for higher SES individuals. ...
... Second, we cover other and more recent literatures to illuminate potential mechanisms or pathways between urbanism and materialism/immorality. Third, we devote an entire section to a recent key study, Joye et al. [6], the only study similar to ours, where we also discuss nature in contrast to urbanism. Finally, we proceed to our person level quantitative study in the US. ...
... (b) Conciseness requires to achieve the best expression effect with the least virtue; (c) The combination of indigenous and international requires the selected virtues should not only reflect the local cultural consciousness, characteristics and spirit, but also be open, progressive and international. Based on the above three principles, from the perspective of positive moral qualities, virtues in wisdom mainly include the following six aspects, namely, awe (Keltner & Piff, 2020), temperance, responsibility, honesty, benevolence, and justice (Sternberg & Glück, 2019;Wang & Zheng, 2014, p. 316). Only wit actions containing one or more of these virtues can be regarded as wise. ...
... Supporting this argument, research has found that weakening belief in free will indeed reduce intentional control (Lynn et al., 2013;Rigoni et al., 2011). While some of this research have been difficult to replicate (Caspar et al., 2017;, and a recent meta-analysis questions downstream effects of free will belief manipulations (Genschow et al., 2021), correlational research has provided robust evidence for a relationship between free will beliefs and social behavior (Feldman et al., 2016;Genschow et al., 2019;Mercier et al., 2020;Seto et al., 2020;Stillman et al., 2010). ...
... In addition to its importance for understanding human differences, recognizing structural influences has implications for how people reason about social policy and intervention. Disregarding structural causes can lead to false conclusions, such as assuming that individuals are solely to blame for their disadvantage or that societal interventions will have no effect for some groups (McCoy & Major, 2007;Piff et al., 2020;Soylu Yalcinkaya et al., 2017;Weiner et al., 2011). ...
... Beyond competence, humans also care about how much effort people invest when cooperating because, all else being equal, it is better to cooperate with someone who is willing to go the extra mile. People who exert more effort to achieve a goal will therefore enjoy a better reputation 71,72 . Certain actions, such as recycling, may require daily efforts and thereby confer a positive reputation to the individual, even though the impact is quite limited. ...
... Correcting misconceptions. Political groups develop warped perceptions about each other, incorrectly thinking that their opponents possess especially extreme political views (false polarization) 61,65,82,83 and lack key human traits (dehumanization) 84,85 . Partisans also overestimate how negatively they would feel if they interacted with their opponents 86 , and they have exaggerated perceptions of how much their opponents dislike and dehumanize them (inaccurate meta-perceptions) 48,87 . ...
... For example, feelings of social connectedness (i.e., a subjective awareness of being in close relationship with the social world; Lee & Robbins, 1998), are facilitated by nature connectedness (Moreton Arena, & Tiliopoulos, 2019) such that our experience with nature affords us greater sense of social connectedness (Passmore & Howell, 2014). These interactions with nature also increase social cohesion, pro-social behavior, and orientation toward others (Goldy & Piff, 2020). Building on this work, individuals who are more attuned to nature may be inspired by its perception of beauty and increase the feeling of oneness with others (Shiota Keltner, & Mossman, 2007). ...