Social Class and the Motivational Relevance of Other Human Beings: Evidence From Visual Attention

Pia Dietze, Eric D. Knowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We theorize that people’s social class affects their appraisals of others’ motivational relevance—the degree to which others are seen as potentially rewarding, threatening, or otherwise worth attending to. Supporting this account, three studies indicate that social classes differ in the amount of attention their members direct toward other human beings. In Study 1, wearable technology was used to film the visual fields of pedestrians on city streets; higher-class participants looked less at other people than did lower-class participants. In Studies 2a and 2b, participants’ eye movements were tracked while they viewed street scenes; higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. In Study 3, a change-detection procedure assessed the degree to which human faces spontaneously attract visual attention; faces proved less effective at drawing the attention of high-class than low-class participants, which implies that class affects spontaneous relevance appraisals. The measurement and conceptualization of social class are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1517-1527
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • culture
  • open data
  • open materials
  • social class
  • social orientation
  • visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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