Are Rich People Ruder?

At first blush, it sounds like one of those stereotypes that's easy to disprove: the Grey-Poupon crowd gets a bad rap not because they actually look down their noses at the rest of us, but because we feel like they do, right? Well, not according to a new study from psychologists at UC Berkeley, who found that there may be a sets of nonverbal cues used in conversation which wealthy people use differently than their economic subordinates.

The study paired off participants and told them to conduct job-interview-style interviews of one another. They were videotaped, and researchers combed through the tapes counting the number of "engagement cues" displayed by each interviewer. (These include behaviors like nodding encouragingly, looking interested, laughing politely at appropriate moments, etc, when another person is talking.) They also looked for disengagement cues (AKA "rudeness") like avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, interrupting and checking one's watch. Tallying the results, the study found overwhelmingly that socioeconomic status profoundly affects the way people engage with others: perhaps not surprisingly, a significantly higher percentage of wealthy participants exhibited disengagement cues, whereas less-wealthy participants were more likely to engage.

The researchers draw a simple, almost Darwinian conclusion: the wealthy don't engage as readily as the less-wealthy because they have less to gain from being liked. Another way of expressing this: the wealthy and powerful are less dependent on others, so if they act a bit like they could take you or leave you, it's because, well, they could.

Of course, this isn't universally true of everyone, and I'm sure all of us know people who cut against the grain of this study's finding (or at least seem to). But I'm interested -- overall, do you find the study's results to be true? Do we engage differently depending on our socioeconomic status?

Story via Scientific American.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


More from mental floss studios