There’s a new cognitive bias to be aware of, and this one is devastating to society: the pervasive belief that poor people are somehow happier with less, as well as better-equipped to handle distress.

A new series of 18 studies out of Princeton University shows that people consistently perceive poorer individuals as more “hardened” to life due to their assumed prior challenges, and therefore emotionally “thicker skinned.” The belief persists across Black, white, Asian, and Latino groups, and across professions, including those that deal directly with low-income groups, such as mental health and education.

The researchers say that the bias likely leads to further neglect toward those who most need compassion and extra aid. “They may receive less courtesy, less care, and less attention, along with greater neglect and disrespect,” said Princeton professor of behavioral science and public policy Eldar Shafir, who calls this “thick-skin bias.”

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