Na­ture of rich-poor di­vide

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THE RICH-POOR di­vide is fun­da­men­tal to hu­man na­ture, a study has found. The ex­per­i­ments show that peo­ple ac­cept the redis­tri­bu­tion of wealth down­wards, but only to a lim­ited ex­tent.

And there is wide­spread sup­port for the idea that those on higher in­comes are more de­serv­ing. The find­ings, from a study pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture, emerged from a game in which play­ers re­dis­tributed cash re­wards to oth­ers.

Dr Ben­jamin Ho, study co-au­thor and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of be­havioural eco­nom­ics at Vas­sar Col­lege in New York, said: “At­tempts to take from the rich and give to the poor could lead to vi­o­lence that makes ev­ery­body worse off. You see this in the an­i­mal king­dom where wolf packs and chick­ens will fight to cre­ate a peck­ing or­der, but once a peck­ing or­der is cre­ated, they will fight to pre­serve it so as not to up­set the bal­ance.”

The re­searchers found that aver­sion to “rank re­ver­sal” be­gins at the age of just six.

Adults and older chil­dren were of­ten happy to re­dis­tribute cash pay­ments be­tween un­known play­ers in a game, tak­ing from the rich to give to the poor. But when this threat­ened to up­set that or­der they were 11.5% more likely to refuse.

Pro­fes­sor Nigel Ni­chol­son, an evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­rist at Lon­don Busi­ness School, said: “As evo­lu­tion­ary science and nu­mer­ous re­search stud­ies shows, sta­tus rank­ing re­ally mat­ters.”

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