An interesting experiment was carried out by Tania Singer at the Max Planck Institute on empathy. They exposed people to various tactile surfaces – they had to touch something pleasant or something gross.
They showed that people who experience something unpleasant are very good at empathising correctly, accurately recognising the emotion and the intensity of feeling in the other person.
On the other hand if one is experiencing pleasure while the other is enduring unpleasantness then the pleasure experiencing person was found to seriously underestimate the other’s suffering.
So it is likely that the more privileged and comfortable someone is the harder it is for them to appreciate the issues of those worse off – this has implications for who you would want running the country!