Why? Because the author neglects to tell us: a) how big the difference in empathy between the two groups is, and b) the underlying distribution of empathy within the rich and poor groups.
The almost inevitable result is that the article will spur one group to be more self-righteous and confident and the other group to be more defensive and angry.
The underlying analyses generally involve complex regressions, but let's simplify a bit so we can imagine two competing realities behind the results of the study cited.
Figure 1 reveals what most readers will take away from a newspaper story like this. It shows two distribution curves, one of rich people, and one of poor people.
|Figure 1: Huge difference; no overlap|
Contrast this with Figure 2:
|Figure 2: Small difference; large overlap|
Figure 2 more accurately represents the results of most social science research. When scientists get lucky, they find a characteristic (in this case, wealth) that has a statistically significant impact on another characteristic (in this case empathy). But statistical significance does not mean that the difference is large. And even more rarely does it mean that the underlying groups have little or no overlap.
[PS: Apologies for the poor graphing skills.]
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