Learning From King Lear: The Saving Grace of Low Status

March 7, 2015 12:12 AM

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Learning From King Lear: The Saving Grace of Low Status

Last week I saw the great Canadian actor Colm Feore brilliantly play King Lear. In one of the most heart-wrenching scenes, Lear, the arrogant, all-powerful king, humiliated by his daughters, faces the fury of the storm on the heath. Yet he thinks not about himself but the “poor naked wretches” whose “houseless heads and unfed sides” he has ignored before.

As usual Shakespeare’s psychology was uncannily accurate. You might think that losing status would make us more selfish. But, in fact, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Ana Guinote at University College London and colleagues shows just the opposite. When people fe...

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