Rich people are less likely than the poor to share their wealth with others: scientists

The most generous people are those who have the least, according to scientists.

Based on a psychological experiment, those deemed to be of 'higher status' were found to be more selfish than those of 'lower status', according to Daily Mail.

Scientists at Queen Mary University also discovered that how a person amassed their fortune matters when it comes to determining how willing they are to share.

 Those who earned their money themselves are far more reluctant to hand it out, compared to those who stumbled on wealth by chance.

In the first social experiment, people were asked to donate money to a communal pot, which was then distributed equally among the players. 

Researchers assigned players with either 'high status' or 'low status'.

Those who were designated as 'high status' were allocated more money at the start of the game compared to those who were branded 'low status'.

But despite having more in their pocket at the start of the experiment, those who were 'high status' contributed less to the communal pot.

Although status was assigned by chance in the first social experiments, researchers later started to allocate status based on effort, with those who worked the hardest being rewarded with the most money.

'Low status' participants consistently contributed more than high status participants

Researchers found that 'high status' participants contributed even less to the communal pot when they felt they had earned the additional wealth.

Even when asked to empathise with their poorer counterparts, richer people steadfastly refused to share their wealth. 

'There are a lot of claims that empathy is the glue that binds people to act socially,' said Dr Magda Osma, the lead author of the study. 

'What we show is that when money matters, empathy plays virtually no role in improving pro-social behaviours.' 

Queen Mary School of Biological and Chemical Sciences' Dr Osman added: 'For the high status individuals, the way in which wealth was achieved, whether through chance or effort, appeared to be the key factor determining the level of cooperation observed.'

But while the amount of perceived effort put into achieving their wealth affected those considered higher status, it had no impact on the lower status people.

'This wasn't the case for the low status individuals. How they got to their low status made no difference to their behaviour in the game,' Dr Osman explained. 

'If you gain high status through effort, rather than chance, you are even more likely to want to keep what you own. 

'When you have limited status one obvious strategic way to increase it, is through cooperation.

'The point here being that even if one is acting cooperatively, there is no reason to think that this is purely for altruistic reasons.'

According to the researchers, one of the most surprising elements of the study was the amount of lower status players who were willing to take risks. 

Dr Osman said: 'There is an element of risk in this game, because if you contribute anything to the shared pot there is no way of knowing, and no guarantee that anyone else from the group will do the same.

'So what is surprising is that low status individuals are willing to take a bigger risk, with fewer resources than the high status individuals. In other words, you take a risk by being pro-social because you have no idea if it will be reciprocated.'