The neuroscience of social class

Curr Opin Psychol. 2017 Dec;18:147-151. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.07.032. Epub 2017 Aug 4.


Most evidence regarding the mental characteristics of people with different socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds is based on behavioral, implicit, or self-report measures. Recently, however, this literature has been significantly expanded by the application of innovative neuroscience methods to the study of social class (functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalogram). In this paper, we provide an overview of the neuroscience of SES, with a focus on three key sets of findings. First, lower SES is linked to greater attunement to others. Second, lower SES is associated with holistic cognitive styles. Third, lower SES is linked to greater reactivity to threat. Limitations of the current evidence are acknowledged, and new directions for future work are suggested. Particularly promising is the current effort to incorporate frameworks from evolutionary psychology and behavioral ecology into neuroscience research on SES.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Fear / physiology
  • Humans
  • Social Class*