Tag Archives: perception

Taking a Second Glance at Eye-Stopping Landscapes

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Robert Schlaug.

Robert Schlaug would like for you to spend a little more time looking at his work.

“I think our consciousness is exposed to an incredible number of daily stimuli,” Schlaug explained via email. “Every minute we take on a variety of images—only exceptional images remain in our minds. I think we have lost the glance at the little things along the way. With my images I want to work against this.”

One of Schlaug’s methods of getting people to slow down is to view his series “Limited Area.” It’s a series of landscape photographs that have been digitally processed and manipulated. Schlaug acknowledged that many critics have said the series isn’t technically demanding and requires little effort, but that’s inconsequential to Schlaug.

“I think it’s not about the complexity of the technique or manipulation but the feeling and the emotions that trigger the images,” wrote Schlaug.

In 2009 after experimenting with the possibilities of digital photography and image manipulation, Schlaug came up with the idea of “limited area.” It is one of three series that deal with the manipulations of landscapes (“High-Speed Landscape” and “Blurred Sea” are the other two). He traveled around Germany and Spain looking for landscapes to photograph for the series.

From Germany, Schlaug is a self-taught photographer “with longtime experience” who began shooting sports photography before turning to architecture and landscapes.

“As a photographer, for me it’s important to go with my eyes open through daily life and develop a glance for the mundane and banal,” Schlaug expressed via email, “to see things that others no longer perceive in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and in times of total sensory overload.”

Schlaug feels his images appear as a cross-section of landscape that lure the viewer into believing they are seeing something below the surface of the land. It’s an intentional trick that is meant to keep the viewer looking at the image for a longer period of time.

“In a more intense sense … I think my series deals with the human experience of limitation,” wrote Schlaug. “Sometimes we think we run into a wall, stand in front of a precipice, not knowing how to proceed further … even our thoughts and our imagination constantly find limits. My series tries to pull all these experiences together visually.”

“Some years ago the title of one of my exhibitions was ‘Second Glance.’ This expresses exactly what I mean: the second glance I want to achieve with my photographs. It would be great if the viewers of my images gave them a second glance.”

“I think our consciousness is exposed to an incredible number of daily stimuli,” Schlaug explained via email. “Every minute we take on a variety of images – only exceptional images remain in our minds. I think we have lost the glance at the little things along the way. With my images I want to work against this.”

One of Schlaug’s methods of getting people to slow down is to view his series “Limited Area.” It’s a series of landscape photographs that have been digitally processed and manipulated. Schlaug acknowledged that many critics have said the series isn’t technically demanding and requires little effort, but that’s inconsequential to Schlaug.

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limited area 34.Robert Schlaug.

“I think it’s not about the complexity of the technique or manipulation, but the feeling and the emotions that trigger the images,” wrote Schlaug.

In 2009 after experimenting with the possibilities of digital photography and image manipulation, Schlaug came up with the idea of “limited area.” It is one of three series that deal with the manipulations of landscapes (“high speed landscape” and “blurred sea” are the other two). He traveled around Germany and Spain looking for landscapes to photograph for the series.

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limited area 20.Robert Schlaug.

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limited area 03.Robert Schlaug.

From Germany, Schlaug is a self-taught photographer “with longtime experience” who began shooting sports photography before turning to architecture and landscapes.

“As a photographer for me it’s important to go with my eyes open through daily life and develop a glance for the mundane and banal,” Schlaug expressed via email. “To see things that others no longer perceive in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and in times of total sensory overload.”

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limited area 05.Robert Schlaug.

Schlaug feels his images appear as a cross-section of landscape that lure the viewer into believing they are seeing something below the surface of the land. It’s an intentional trick that is meant to keep the viewer looking at the image for a longer period of time.

“In a more intense sense…I think my series deals with the human experience of limitation,” wrote Schlaug. “Sometimes we think we run into a wall, stand in front of a precipice, not knowing how to proceed further…even our thoughts and our imagination constantly find limits. My series tries to pull all these experiences together visually.”

“Some years ago the title of one of my exhibitions was “At Second Glance” This expresses exactly what I mean: the second glance I want to achieve with my photographs. It would be great if the viewers of my images gave them a second glance.”

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limited area 07.Robert Schlaug.

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limited area 04.Robert Schlaug.

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Is your brain East or West?

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What Do You See?

Is your brain East or West?

66 comments , 04 January 2010

Is your brain East or West?
IMAGES COURTESY TAKAHIKO MASUDA

A plainclothes cop walks into a diner and finds no less than five gun-wielding criminals holding up the crowded joint. “We’re not just going to let you walk out of here,” the cop says. “Who’s we, sucka?” says one of the criminals. “Smith and Wesson and me,” says the cop. He draws his Smith & Wesson and – in a crowded diner – shoots four of the criminals and advances on the last gunman, who’s holding a pistol to a hostage’s head. One itchy trigger finger and the hostage could be dead. The cop glares at the criminal. “Go ahead, make my day.” The cop is “Dirty Harry” Callahan, but really he could be any Hollywood hero. The movie is Sudden Impact, but really it could be any movie or book or manifestation of Western culture.

With a few modern updates, Western culture has been re-creating the same story over and over again since Homer collected The Odyssey more than two and a half thousand years ago. Since the Greeks, the ideal of the unique and strong individual has become so prevalent in Western culture that we have stopped realizing that it is even part of our culture. Often we mistake our perceptions of the world for how the world really is.

Psychologists have long known that North Americans overestimate their own distinctiveness, especially in comparison with East Asians. When asked to describe themselves, Americans and Canadians tend to talk about their individual personality and personal outlook more than Japanese do. North Americans tend to settle arguments in terms of right and wrong, whereas East Asians tend to seek compromises. Dirty Harry is an extreme and violent example, but he is emblematic of Western culture and he sums up our single-minded, goal-oriented behavior with aplomb. “When I see an adult male chasing a female with the intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That’s my policy.”

Is your brain East or West?

New research shows that culture even affects our cognition. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology claims that Americans and Japanese intuit the emotions of others differently based on cultural training. “North Americans try to identify the single important thing that is key to making a decision,” explains Dr. Takahiko Masuda, the study’s author, over the phone from his office at the University of Alberta. “In East Asia they really care about the context.” He studied the eye movement of Americans and Japanese when analyzing a picture of a group of cartoon people. When asked to interpret the emotion of the person in the center, the Japanese looked at the person for about one second before moving on to the people in the background. They needed to know how the group was feeling before understanding the emotion of the individual. The Americans (and Canadians in subsequent studies) focused 95% of their attention on the person in the center. Only 5% of their attention was focused on the background, and this, Dr. Masuda points out, didn’t influence their interpretation of the central figure’s emotion. For North Americans the foreground is all-important.

Dr. Masuda is quick to point out that Americans and Japanese are physiologically the same. The difference in eye movement is tied to the roots of our respective cultures. When trying to explain the natural world, the Ancient Greeks – the founders of Western civilization – tended to focus on central objects and sought to explain their rules of behavior. Funnily enough, Aristotle thought a rock had the property of “gravity.” It didn’t occur to him that a system was working its powers on the rock. The Chinese on the other hand took a more holistic approach. They believed that everything occurred within a context, or a field of forces, and thus they unraveled the relationship between the moon and the tides.

These differences in philosophy can be explained, at least in part, by the environments that spawned them. “We are surrounded by socially created information, which affects our perception,” Masuda explains. And perception affects our culture. Research shows that North American cities are less cluttered than East Asian cities, which means that North Americans can spend more time considering salient objects. When Americans or Canadians visit East Asia, they are often overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to process. I have experienced this phenomenon personally. The first time I bused from Incheon Airport into Seoul, South Korea, I was dumbfounded by the number of buildings, advertisements, lights, cars and people and had to turn away from the window to stop my head from spinning. Dr. Masuda first arrived in North America when he was 26. Compared to Japan, which was crowded with people and objects and “complex pieces of information,” he felt North American cities to be lonely places.

Masuda stresses that no way of perceiving the world is better than another and refuses to interpret his studies too broadly. He has yet to conduct his tests in Africa or South America. But it seems to me that Masuda’s study is important: It reminds us that there is more than one way of seeing the world.

North Americans have a tendency toward isolating singular goals and working doggedly towards them. And we have achieved some remarkable accomplishments. We put a man on the moon, invented the telephone and the airplane and achieved a thousand more seemingly impossible tasks. We congratulate ourselves on our individualism in our movies, our art, our personal relationships and, of course, our politics. But as we do so, we perpetuate this trait – perception informs culture, culture informs perception – until we mistake the way we see the world for the only way to see the world.

As alluring as the Dirty Harry approach may be, is it time to put away our Smith & Wesson and start considering the other customers in the diner? The problems we face today – the environmental degradation of our planet, global recession, religious fundamentalism – don’t fit inside borders or simple categories. Context is unavoidable. We need to start looking for it.

Tetrachromats

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Tetrachromats

by admin on March 19, 2012

Tetrachromats-infographic

Women have a reputation for having a great eye for design and color. While this is not true of women everywhere, we can see that many interiors designers, artists, etc., are, in fact, women. How do women instinctually know what colors go well together? There is a scientific explanation for this called tetrachromacy. Tetrachromacy is “the condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information, or possessing four different types of cone cells in the eye.” People with tetrachromacy are known as tetrachromats – they’re extremely rare and have a super-human power. The first tetrachromat woman was discovered by researchers at Cambridge University in 1993. This is perhaps the most remarkable human mutation ever detected.

8% of the US male population is color blind – 95% of them with red or green receptor problems.

Being a tetrachromats is like being a super taster of color. Organisms that are tetrachromats see the sensory color space as four-dimensional; meaning, in order to match the sensory effect or arbitrarily chosen spectra of light within their visible spectrum, it requires the mixture of four (at minimum) different primary colors. So these people would see four clear ranges of color, instead of the three ranges that most of us possess.
A good example of this is, when looking at a rainbow, a woman with tetrachromacy can separate it into approximately 10 different colors; a trichromat (with three iodopsins) can only see seven (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). For a tetrachromats woman, it was found that green was assigned as jade, emerald, olive, verdant, bottle, and 34 other shades.
The majority of birds are also tetrachromats; thus, we can surmise that several species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and arachnids are tetrachromats, too.
To understand tetrachromacy in layman’s terms, you must know that an organism’s retina has four types of higher-intensity light receptors; these are called cone cells in vertebrates, as opposed to rod cells, which have lower intensity light receptors, and have different absorption spectra. This means that the animal may be able to see wavelengths that a typical human being cannot; they also could distinguish colors that to a normal person may appear to be identical. There is obviously a small physiological advantage over competing species.
Certain animals, as previously stated, are tetrachromats as well. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a tetrachromats. They have cone cells that are sensitive for green, red, blue, and ultraviolet light. Species of birds, like the Columbidae and Zebra Finch use the ultraviolet wavelength (which is between 300 and 400 nm)that comes with tetrachromatic color vision as a ploy to lure mates and in foraging. When choosing a mate, ultraviolet plumage and skin coloration mean a higher level of selection.
Colors found in flowers are divided into two main wavelengths of light: 360 – 520 nm and 400 – 500 nm. Flowers can reflect four large domains of wavelength, including 300 – 400 nm, 400 – 500 nm, 500 – 600 nm, and 600 – 700 nm. These wavelengths have the colors ultraviolet (UV), blue, green, and red respectively within the color spectrum. Flowers will use said wavelengths to separate color patterns within a species. It has been found that these differences in color patterns are utilized for behavioral attractions in pollinator insects, which increases survival. Several trichromatic pollinators like honeybees use blue, ultraviolet, and green wavelengths. Increases in the wavelengths that flowers reflect happen when the color space within insects becomes more and more filled. Pollination is a mutualistic relationship between pollinators, like bees, and plants, like flowers; this leads to a very high competition level. This competition created a coevolution between foraging insects and plants, thus increasing the color variation in both orders, which then leads to directional selection.
Insects that are foragers can see all four color wavelengths. Plants can show an ever-increasing different amount of color variation, which extends into the ultraviolet color scale. Plants that have higher levels of color will attract higher levels of pollinators. A pollinator with a wider range of color can use tetrachromatic color vision to raise and keep a higher foraging success rate versus their trichromatic competitors. For tetrachromatic insects, background displays are important in terms of viewing flower color variation. Flowers that show pure color hues are more easily recognized by a pollinating insect. When a pollinating bug sees a flower, it can differentiate the flower from the background by noting the reflectance in the petals. This use of reflectance then draws the insect in closer towards the plant’s reproductive organs.
Humans and their primate relatives usually have three types of cone cells and thus are trichromats, or animals with three different cones. But at low light intensity, the rod cells could help color vision, which gives a small region of tetrachromacy in the color space.
For humans, two cone cell pigment genes are found on the sex X chromosome, the “classical type 2 opsin genes OPN1MW and OPN1MW2.” Women have two different X chromosomes in their cells; so, some women could carry some variant cone cell pigment. This makes being born as a full tetrachromat and retaining four different at-once functioning kinds of cone cells (each type with a specific pattern of responsiveness to different wavelengths of light in the range of the visible spectrum possible. There is a study that suggests that 2 – 3 % of the world’s females may have the type of fourth cone that is between the typical red and green cones, which theoretically means a significant increase in color differentiation. A similar study states that as many as 50% of women and 8% of men could have four photopigments.
In order to verify tetrachromacy in humans, we need to conduct more studies. We do know of two potential tetrachromats: “Mrs. M,” an English social worker, was found during a 1993 study, and an unidentified female physician close to Newcastle English, was found in 2006. Neither case is completely verified.
In cone pigment genes, variation is common in many if not most human populations, but the most common and obvious tetrachromacy comes from female carriers of major red-green pigment anomalies, usually classed as forms of “color blindness” (deuteranomaly or protanomaly). The biological reason for this is “X-inactivation of heterozygotic alleles for retinal pigment genes, which is the same mechanism that gives the majority of female new-world monkeys trichromatic vision.”
For humans, preliminary visual processing happens within the retina’s neurons. We don’t really know how these nerves respond to a new color channel, i.e., whether or not they could handle it separately or just put it in an already-existing channel. Visual information exits the eye through the optic nerve. It’s unknown whether the optic nerve has the extra capacity to handle a new color channel. Much of final image processing occurs in the brain. We don’t know how the different areas of the brain would respond if give a new color channel.
Typically, mice, who only have two cone pigments, can be “engineered to express a third cone pigment, and appear to demonstrate increased chromatic discrimination, arguing against some of these obstacles; however, the original publication’s claims about plasticity in the optic nerve have also been disputed.”
People who have four photopigments have been proven to have higher levels of chromatic discrimination compared to trichromats.
How do you tell if you’re a tetrachromats?
You’re more likely to be a tetrachromats if you meet the following criteria:
– You’re a woman
– You have a son, father, or other man in your family with red or green colorblindness.
But to truly verify whether or not you fit the definition of a tetrachromats, you need to take a genetic test. Also, Dr. Neitz, a well-known color vision researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, states that “only women have the potential for super color vision.” This is, again, because the genes for the pigments in green and red cones live on the X chromosome, and only women have two X chromosomes. Dr. Neitz estimates that 2 – 3 % of the world’s females have four types of color cones that lie right in between the typical red and green cones, which gives them a major range.
While scientists can do all the genetic testing they please, proving that a woman can see tens of millions of additional colors is, at this point, not possible – though through the utilization of further testing and technology, the future looks promising.

Read More Heavy Science on Tetrachromacy

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When East Meets West

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what happens when east meets west?

On a good day, you have received an impressive cross-posted e-mail and you really want to share with your friends. These graphics are striking for me as they show how well the designer observes, analayses  and re-present through her eyes.  Some of you may have already seen it, but it is nice to take another look.

These are icons designed by Liu Yang, a Chinese born but educated in her teen through adult life in Germany.  Her work shows how East meets West.  Her work fits so well with globalization of culture, peoeple and places.

See whether you agree with her.

Blue means the West

Read means the East/ Asian/Chinese

(The Image corresponds to the word/phrase below it)

The boss

me

child

eldery in day to day life

way of life

three meals a day

moods and weather

things that are new

opinion

party

perception of each other

contacts

handling of problem

punctuality

queue in waiting

in the restaurant

shower timing

transportation

travelling

what’s trendy

Perhaps, it is quite a generalization but it is more or less the way of the West and the East. The two parts of the world are learning from each other while the division into two parts is too crude anyway. My favourite is ‘perception of each other’. Here, the West is learning to dreass, drink and eat Asian way, but the East is fond of  modern look, sausage and beer.

What is your favourite?

How do you interpret these graphics?

Liu Yang’s exhibition

Liu Yang was born in 1979 in Beijing, China. She moved to Germany in  1990 and lives there since. She established Yang Liu Design institute in Berlin in 2004.

An Optical Illusion that Explains the Origins of Imaginary Monsters

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An Optical Illusion that Explains the Origins of Imaginary Monsters

An Optical Illusion that Explains the Origins of Imaginary Monsters

It seems that the brain, in specific situations, literally gets bored and starts scaring you. The easiest way to prove this is to perform the simple experiment of looking steadily into a mirror, for a few minutes at a time. Soon, you’re very likely to see a monster. That monster is a combination of your face and your brain. Does that make it better or worse?

There are a lot of creepy situations that start happening when you look in the mirror. Low light and a fearful mood certainly help, but the primary reason why people have so many mirror related freak-outs, and why it’s become such a big game at slumber parties, is straight biology. The brain doesn’t have the energy or the processing power to notice everything all the time. Sitting at your computer now, you’re probably unaware of the feel of the seat under you, your clothes against your skin, and any lingering smells you might have noticed (no judgement) when you walked into the room. Your mind mostly tunes them out. But the sense that most of us rely on almost all the time, sight, has also been narrowed down. You are probably unaware of anything outside of the range of the computer screen, and you probably haven’t noticed minor changes to that. That is why most updates on computers come with a sound or a blinking light.

 

The brain, when faced with a lot of stimulation, only some of which is considered relevant, will tune out the non-relevant parts, filling in what it can from the general area. It’s a little like how the blind spot works, except this is a dynamic process. The brain will zoom in on a desired area, and the rest of the space will fade away. This is called the Troxler Effect, or Troxler Fading. It was discovered way back in 1804 by Ignaz Troxler, a physician and philosopher. Take a look at the circle to the left. Focus on the red dot at the middle. After less than thirty seconds, the circle should just fade away. The mind then fills in the area where the circle used to be with the white that surrounds it. It’s worth doing an image search on Troxler Effect, since there are a ton of illusions with it on the internet. There are whole paintings that fade away. There are moving objects that disappear with enough focus. You can spend a happy twenty minutes observing your brain erase the world.

 

A less happy ten minutes would be spent staring in a mirror. A paper in Perception outlines an experiment in which people were asked to stare into a mirror, in low light, for ten minutes. They do not sound like a fun ten minutes, according to the report.

The descriptions differed greatly across individuals and included: (a) huge deformations of one’s own face (reported by 66% of the fifty participants); (b) a parent’s face with traits changed (18%), of whom 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased; (c) an unknown person (28%); (d) an archetypal face, such as that of an old woman, a child, or a portrait of an ancestor (28%); (e) an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%); (f ) fantastical and monstrous beings (48%).

The Troxler Effect fades out features that a person isn’t directly staring at. Those features are filled in with what’s around them. It works on a white background, but a face looks horrifying when, for example, a slice of forehead and cheek are subbed in for an eye. Plus, the effect doesn’t stay in one place. The Troxler Effect wanders over the entire face, distorting it massively. The person then often instinctively turns those distortions into things that they can actually recognize, even if it scares them. This is how mirror monsters, like Bloody Mary, develop. The brain gets tired of processing the mundane and, accidentally, cooks up a monster to entertain us.

Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer?

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Beef Tack

Posted in Oddities by Greg Ross on February 14th, 2012

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Begrazing_uiterwaarden_TN.jpg

In 2008, five European scientists announced that cattle and deer around the world align their bodies in roughly a north-south direction when grazing or resting.

German zoologist Sabine Begall studied thousands of Google Earth images and discovered that both types of animals appear to align their bodies with magnetic north. The conclusion “appears to be quite clear-cut from the data,” observed ornithologist Wolfgang Wiltschko.

“It boggles the mind that no one — herdsman, rancher, or hunter — had noticed this before,” writes ethologist Jonathan Balcombe. “What else are we failing to notice?”

(Begall, S., et al. “Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer.” PNAS 105(36) (2008): 134510-13455.)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Lower classes quicker to show compassion in the face of suffering

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Lower classes quicker to show compassion in the face of suffering

By Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations | December 19, 2011

BERKELEY —

Emotional differences between the rich and poor, as depicted in such Charles Dickens classics as “A Christmas Carol” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” may have a scientific basis. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that people in the lower socio-economic classes are more physiologically attuned to suffering, and quicker to express compassion than their more affluent counterparts.

By comparison, the UC Berkeley study found that individuals in the upper middle and upper classes were less able to detect and respond to the distress signals of others. Overall, the results indicate that socio-economic status correlates with the level of empathy and compassion that people show in the face of emotionally charged situations.

“It’s not that the upper classes are coldhearted,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Jennifer Stellar, lead author of the study published online on Dec. 12 in the journal, Emotion. “They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives.”

Stellar and her colleagues’ findings challenge previous studies that have characterized lower-class people as being more prone to anxiety and hostility in the face of adversity.

“These latest results indicate that there’s a culture of compassion and cooperation among lower-class individuals that may be born out of threats to their wellbeing,” Stellar said.

It has not escaped the researchers’ attention that the findings come at a time of rising class tension, expressed in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Rather than widen the class divide, Stellar said she would like to see the findings promote understanding of different class cultures. For example, the findings suggest that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds may thrive better in cooperative settings than their upper-class counterparts.

“Upper-class individuals appear to be more self-focused, they’ve grown up with more freedom and autonomy,” she said. “They may do better in an individualist, competitive environment.”

More than 300 ethnically diverse young adults were recruited for the UC Berkeley study, which was divided into three experiments that used three separate groups of participants. Because all the volunteers were college undergraduates, their class identification – lower class, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class or upper class – was based on parental income and education.

In the first experiment, 148 young adults were rated on how frequently and intensely they experience such emotions as joy, contentment, pride, love, compassion, amusement and awe. In addition, they reported how much they agreed with such statements as “When I see someone hurt or in need, I feel a powerful urge to take care of them,” and “I often notice people who need help.” Compassion was the only positive emotion reported at greater levels by lower-class participants, the study found.

In the second experiment, a new group of 64 participants viewed two videos: an instructional video on construction and an emotionally charged video about families who are coping with the challenges of having a child with cancer. Participants showed no differences while watching the “neutral” instructional video, and all reported feeling sad in response to the video about families of cancer patients. However, members of the lower class reported higher levels of compassion and empathy as distinct from sorrow.

The researchers also monitored the heart rates of participants as they watched the neutral and emotionally charged videos. Lower-class participants showed greater decreases in heart rate as they watched the cancer family video than upper-class participants.

“One might assume that watching someone suffering would cause stress and raise the heart rate,” Stellar said. “But we have found that, during compassion, the heart rate lowers as if the body is calming itself to take care of another person.”

Finally, a new set of 106 participants was randomly divided into pairs and pitted against one another in mock interviews for a lab manager position. To further raise the stress level in interviews, those who performed best were to win a cash prize. Post-interview reports from the participants showed that the lower-class interviewees perceived their rivals to be feeling greater amounts of stress, anxiety and embarrassment and as a result reported more compassion and sympathy for their competitors. Conversely, upper-class participants were less able to detect emotional distress signals in their rivals.

“Recognizing suffering is the first step to responding compassionately. The results suggest that it’s not that upper classes don’t care, it’s that they just aren’t as good at perceiving stress or anxiety,” Stellar said.

Other coauthors of the study are UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner; Michael Kraus, a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry at UCSF; and Vida Manzo, a researcher in social psychology at  Northwestern University. The study was funded by grants from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and the McNair Scholars Program.