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Rich people cannot feel pain, don't care if they're liked

And being skint makes you a crybaby, say profs

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Being rich makes people invulnerable to pain and steels them against rejection by other people, according to trick-cyclists and whalesong specialists in China and America.

In order to discover this, a group of student recruits at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou were split up into two groups. One was given a sheaf of crisp banknotes to count, the other ordinary dull bits of paper. After this, all of them were forced to plunge their extremities into scalding 50°C water.

Those who had counted money beforehand, apparently, felt less pain than the others. And it doesn't stop there. Crafty psych prof Xinyue Zhou also devised a devilish method of inflicting social rejection on his test subjects, by making them play an online multiplayer game in which a ball was thrown around among a group of players.

Zhou rigged the game, however, so that after a cheery and inclusive period of tossing the cyber ball about, test subjects would then suddenly find that nobody would throw it to them any more - a crushing playground-outcast style experience.

Once again, though, it emerged that those who had fondled a pile of reassuring cash money prior to copping a cyber cold-shouldering laughed the rejection off. Those who hadn't, however, were left blubbing in the corner.

Zhou and his collaborators - Florida trick-cyclist Roy Baumeister and Minneapolis marketing prof Kathleen Vohs - then tried the same tortures on people they had made to feel poor, rather than rich. They accomplished the feeling of poverty by getting half their group to write about all the bills they'd paid lately, while the others wrote about the weather.

It appears that the skint-feeling students suffered more pain on being scalded, and coped poorly when frozen out of the networked catch games.

So there you have it: being (or feeling) rich means you care nothing for the opinions of others, and also makes you invulnerable to torture. Being/feeling poor turns you into a grizzling crybaby. According to the study authors, that is.

The research paper in question can be read (by paying subscribers of the relevant journal) here. Astute readers will note that it was actually published months ago, and wonder why the media is suddenly interested in it.

The reason is that a paid webservice billing itself as an "expert guide to the most important advances in medicine" has issued a press release about it, offering this as an example of its own brilliance in keeping its subscribers bang up to date. Those who want their medical news four and a half months late should definitely sign up. ®

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