The High Costs of Status Seeking
It’s well known that income inequality leads to all sorts of social problems. The bigger the gap between the affluent and the poor, the higher the rates of homicide, teenage pregnancy and infant mortality, to name just a few of the negative outcomes. Unequal societies are also more polarized politically, and their economies are not as robust. Despite all this evidence of untoward consequences, it’s not really known why this is the case. What is the psychosocial link between income gaps and societal dysfunction?
Revisiting the Land of Opportunity
“Our success should depend not on accident of birth, but on the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” So President Obama proclaimed in his 2014 State of the Union Address, adding: “Opportunity is who we are.” Yet in the same speech, just a few paragraphs before, the President acknowledged that the American Dream is elusive for many: “Average wages have barely budged,” he noted. “Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.” President Obama is not alone, neither in his yearning nor his gloom. Many Americans echo his view that economic realities are falling far short of the American Dream that defines our national ethos.
Mothers and Lovers: From Parenting To Romance
Most of us would probably agree that our early childhood experiences influence who we become as adults. But this is actually a fairly provocative notion. And especially provocative is the idea that our upbringing—the quality of the parenting we get—has long-term implications for how we later interact with other adults, including our intimate partners. This is not an easy connection to study for a couple of reasons. It takes a lot of time and planning to study people from childhood into adulthood, and what’s more, neither parenting quality nor the quality of romantic relationships is easily and objectively analyzed.
Hard To Think Straight: Processing Prejudice
We all have a bit of irrationality in us. Even if we think of ourselves as logical and deliberative, we still make decisions and judgments, based not entirely on the facts of the matter, but upon seemingly inconsequential information, random cues that we take from the world around us. Some of our irrational thinking is just quirky. For example, simply reading food labels in a difficult-to-read typeface can make us more fearful of food additives, while an easy-to-read label can diminish our perception of risk. We are more reluctant to ride roller coasters—and even to invest in new companies—with difficult-to-pronounce names.
How long will you live? Ask your friends.
When actor James Gandolfini died in the summer of 2013, at age 51, a prominent cardiologist described him as “a heart attack waiting to happen.” The award-winning Sopranos star was overweight and inactive, and on the evening he died, he had indulged himself in a diet of rum, beer and fatty foods. In short, he didn’t take care of himself, and this lack of discipline no doubt contributed to his untimely death. Scientists have long known that personality is a good indicator of future health and mortality. In fact, personality traits are better predictors of lifespan than either intelligence or socioeconomic status.
The National Sadness of Sandy Hook
It’s been almost two years since 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and gunned down 20 children and six adults, before killing himself. It was one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history—the worst ever in an elementary school. In the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, Americans were enveloped in a national sadness. The murders took place on December 14th. Psychological theory and common wisdom both say that the intensity of our emotions surrounding Sandy Hook should have diminished by now. But is this true?