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The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials

The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials

“For the first time in America’s history, an entire generation of her citizens are poorer, more indebted, and less employed than the preceding generations.

That generation is the millennials – our generation.

The culprit, say some social commenters, are millennials themselves. In this telling, we are a lazy cohort of entitled and narcissistic brats — the proverbial Generation Me. But this is a classic case of blaming the victim.

The true cause of this unfortunate situation is clear: It’s the economy. The Great Recession stymied economic growth, halted job creation, kept older Americans in the workforce longer, and encouraged younger Americans to continue debt-financed schooling.

Moreover, the Great Recession was not merely a one-off calamity — it was a symptom of economic ills long perpetuated and ignored. And the criticism and labels that have been heaped upon millennials bear much more resemblance to the type of intergenerational stereotyping that has always existed (“darn kids these days”) than to any measurable reality.

The truth: The economic tragedy of the Millennial generation was written before many of us had even learned to read — Baby Boomer parents and grandparents who, at once, genuinely love and care for us, but have also created or perpetuated institutions, policies, and economic realities that have now hobbled us.

Our generation has been called “entitled.” We beg to differ. If any generation is entitled, it’s our parents’ and grandparents’ generation: the baby boomers.

True entitlement is tripling the national debt since the 1980s and using the proceeds to spend lavishly on tax cuts and government programs that primarily provided short-term economic boosts, while refusing to raise the Social Security age of retirement or to reduce benefits, even as the gluttonous program careens toward unsustainability.

australia2AAP Image/NEWZULU/ZOEA protester at recent Australia climate-change rallies in the lead up to the UN climate summit in New York.

True entitlement is allowing the reasonable minimum wage that Baby Boomers enjoyed when they were our age to deteriorate while opting to cut taxes on the gains from stocks and bonds that they accrued during periods of debt-driven economic and stock-market surges — creating an economy where wage earners at all income levels, as of 2012, receive a smaller portion of economic output at any time since 1929.

True entitlement is, for decades, enjoying the benefits of the lowest energy costs in the world while refusing to price-in the external costs of carbon emissions, exacerbating the real changes to our planet that pose profound risks to the environment and economy for which millennials will soon be the primary stewards.

These grave consequences were entirely foreseeable — but they happened. Young Americans have been fleeced in order to fund the transient excesses of the old — and yet millennials are labeled “entitled” because we were given “participation trophies” and “personal tutors” before we were old enough to vote … ?

Give us a break. Millennials are not entitled. But we are frustrated.

We’re frustrated, because the same baby-boomer bloc that created or tacitly perpetuated the policies that have hamstrung millennials now makes up almost a third of the American voting-aged population and holds nearly two-thirds of the seats of the US House of Representatives and Senate. This, during a decade-long span when incumbent House and Senate members are richly rewarded for being the most unproductive legislators in US history, respectively winning reelection 94% and 87% of the time.

millennials, workplaceITU/Rowan Farrell

Granted, many members of our generation need to learn how to vote every two years, not just every four. And we need to begin to fulfill the civic-minded label — “The Next Great Generation” — which social scientists have bestowed upon us. When we do begin to regularly share our opinions in the voting booth, not just on Twitter, you can be assured that we’ll act to keep this country great. We’ll make the “hard” choices the baby boomers have refused to make.

Already, we’ve learned how to be fiscally responsible — with the most student debt of any generation in history, we’ve had to. More than any other generation, we eschew expensive possessions like cars and large houses, opting instead for bikes and shared living spaces. Sure, we would like to own all that fancy stuff someday, but we realize that we can’t have everything we want.

We know that our government would be better off spending more of our tax dollars on jobs and education, and not just on Social Security and defense. We overwhelmingly recognize that the war on drugs has been an embarrassing waste of money and lives, and that anyone should be able to marry whomever they love.

Perhaps we millennials are entitled: We seemed to think that baby-boomer politicians would enact much-needed changes while we fiddled with our smartphones. We were definitely wrong on that one.”

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Social Science Palooza

By DAVID BROOKS

Published: December 6, 2010

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of scholars study human behavior. Every day, a few of their studies are bundled and distributed via e-mail by Kevin Lewis, who covers the social sciences for The Boston Globe and National Affairs. And every day, I file away these studies because I find them bizarrely interesting.

In this column, I’m going to try to summarize as many of these studies as space allows. No single study is dispositive, but I hope these summaries can spark some conversations:

Female mammals tend to avoid close male relatives during moments of peak fertility in order to avoid inbreeding. For the journal Psychological Science, Debra Lieberman, Elizabeth Pillsworth and Martie Haselton tracked young women’s cellphone calls. They found that these women had fewer and shorter calls with their fathers during peak fertility days, but not with female relatives.

Classic research has suggested that the more people doubt their own beliefs the more, paradoxically, they are inclined to proselytize in favor of them. David Gal and Derek Rucker published a study in Psychological Science in which they presented some research subjects with evidence that undermined their core convictions. The subjects who were forced to confront the counterevidence went on to more forcefully advocate their original beliefs, thus confirming the earlier findings.

Physical contact improves team performance. For the journal Emotion, Michael Kraus, Cassey Huang and Dacher Keltner measured how frequently members of N.B.A. teams touched each other. Teams that touched each other frequently early in the 2008-2009 season did better than teams that touched less frequently, even after accounting for player status, preseason expectations and early season performance.

According to John Gaski and Jeff Sagarin in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics, there is a surprisingly strong relationship between daylight saving time and lower SAT scores. No explanation was offered.

For an article in The Review of Economics and Statistics, Mark Duggan, Randi Hjalmarsson and Brian Jacob investigated whether gun shows increase crime rates. They identified 3,400 gun shows in Texas and California and looked at crime rates for the areas around the shows for the following month. They found no relationship between gun shows and crime in either state.

Self-control consumes glucose in the brain. For an article in the journal Aggressive Behavior, Nathan DeWall, Timothy Deckman, Matthew Gaillot and Brad Bushman found that research subjects who consumed a glucose beverage behaved less aggressively than subjects who drank a placebo beverage. They found an indirect relationship between diabetes (a disorder marked by poor glucose toleration) and low self-control. States with high diabetes rates also had high crime rates. Countries with a different condition that leads to low glucose levels had higher killing rates, both during wartime and during peacetime.

We tend to admire extroverted leaders. But Adam Grant, Francesca Gino and David Hofmann have added a wrinkle to this bias in an article in The Academy of Management Journal. They found that extraverted leaders perform best when their employees are passive, but this effect is reversed when the employees are proactive. In these cases, the extroverted leaders are less receptive to their employees’ initiatives.

Beautiful women should take up chess. Anna Dreber, Christer Gerdes and Patrik Gransmark wrote a Stockholm University working paper in which they found that male chess players pursue riskier strategies when they’re facing attractive female opponents, even though the risk-taking didn’t improve their performance.

People remember information that is hard to master. In a study for Cognition, Connor Diemand-Yauman, Daniel Oppenheimer and Erikka Vaughan found that information in hard-to-read fonts was better remembered than information transmitted in easier fonts.

Would you rather date someone who dumped his or her last partner or someone who was the dumpee? For an article in Evolutionary Psychology, Christine Stanik, Robert Kurzban and Phoebe Ellsworth found that men will give a woman a lower rating when they learn that she dumped her last boyfriend, perhaps fearing they will be next. But women rated men more highly when they learned that they had done the dumping, perhaps seeing it as a sign of desirability.

These studies remind us that we are strange, complicated creatures — deeply influenced by primordial biases and our current relationships. But you don’t have to settle for my summaries of these kinds of studies. Go to the National Affairs Web site, where there are links to Kevin Lewis’s daily batch of studies. A day without social science is like a day without sunshine.

 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 9, 2010

 

An earlier version of this column inaccurately described diabetes as a disorder “marked by low glucose levels.” This language followed the wording of the original study being described which focused on lower levels of tolerance for glucose in the brain, not low glucose levels in the blood. Given the complexity of the disease, it is more accurate, in shorthand to describe diabetes as a disorder “marked by poor glucose toleration.””

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January 19, 2013 · 11:23 pm

Social Science Palooza II

By DAVID BROOKS

Published: March 17, 2011

“The nice thing about being human is that you never need to feel lonely. Human beings are engaged every second in all sorts of silent conversations — with the living and the dead, the near and the far.

Researchers have been looking into these subtle paraconversations, and in this column I’m going to pile up a sampling of their recent findings. For example, Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim wrote a fantastic book excerpt in Sports Illustrated explaining home-field advantage. Home teams win more than visiting teams in just about every sport, and the advantage is astoundingly stable over time. So what explains the phenomenon?

It’s not because players perform better when their own fans are cheering them on. In basketball, free-throw percentages are the same home and away. In baseball, a pitcher’s strike-to-ball ratio is the same home and away.

Neither is it the rigors of travel disadvantaging the away team. Teams from the same metro area lose at the same rate as teams from across the country when playing in their rival’s stadium.

No, the real difference is the officiating. The refs and umpires don’t like to get booed. So even if they are not aware of it, they call fewer fouls on home teams in crucial situations. They call more strikes on away batters in tight games in the late innings.

Moskowitz and Wertheim show that the larger, louder and closer a crowd is, the more the refs favor the home team. It’s not a conscious decision. They just naturally conform a bit to the emotional vibes radiating from those around them.

They say you only hurt the one you love. That may not be strictly true, but in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Johanna Peetz and Lara Kammrath find that people are more likely to break promises made to people they love. That’s because they are driven by affection to make lavish promises in the first place. They really mean it at the time, but lavish promises are the least likely to be kept.

If you want a person to work harder, you should offer to pay on the basis of individual performance, right? Not usually. A large body of research suggests it’s best to motivate groups, not individuals. Organize your people into a group; reward everybody when the group achieves its goals. Susan Helper, Morris Kleiner and Yingchun Wang confirm this insight in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research. They compared compensation schemes in different manufacturing settings and found that group incentive pay and hourly pay motivate workers more effectively than individual incentive pay.

Joachim Huffmeier and Guido Hertel tried to figure out why groups magnify individual performance for a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They studied relay swim teams in the 2008 Summer Olympics. They found that swimmers on the first legs of a relay did about as well as they did when swimming in individual events. Swimmers on the later legs outperformed their individual event times. In the heat of a competition, it seems, later swimmers feel indispensible to their team’s success and are more motivated than when swimming just for themselves.

Not all groups perform equally well, of course. Researchers led by Thomas W. Malone at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management have found they can measure a group’s I.Q. This group I.Q. is not well predicted by the median I.Q. of the group members. Measures of motivation didn’t predict group performance all that well either.

Instead, the groups that did well had members that were good at reading each other’s emotions. They took turns when speaking. Participation in conversation was widely distributed. There was no overbearing leader dominating everything.

This leads to the question: What sorts of people are good at reading emotion? Age may play some role here. Jamin Halberstadt has a paper coming out in the journal Psychology and Aging that suggests that the young may on average read emotional cues more sensitively than the old. Halberstadt showed various people videos of someone committing a faux pas. Younger viewers were able to better discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Older subjects also performed worse on emotion recognition tests.

Taste may play a role, too. For the journal Psychological Science, Kendall Eskine, Natalie Kacinik and Jesse Prinz gave people sweet-tasting, bitter-tasting and neutral-tasting drinks and then asked them to rate a variety of moral transgressions. As expected, people who had tasted the bitter drink were more likely to register moral disgust, suggesting that having Cherry Coke in the jury room may be a smart move for good defense lawyers.

It’s important to remember that one study is never dispositive. But if this stuff interests you, I have a newish blog — brooks.blogs.nytimes.com — in the Opinion section of The Times online celebrating odd and brilliant studies from researchers around the world.”

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January 19, 2013 · 11:18 pm

Social Science Palooza III

By 

Published: December 10, 2012

“Elections come and go, but social science marches on. Here are some recent research findings that struck my fancy

Organic foods may make you less generous. In a study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science, Kendall J. Eskine had people look at organic foods, comfort foods or a group of control foods. Those who viewed organic foods subsequently volunteered less time to help a needy stranger and they judged moral transgressions more harshly.

Men are dumber around women. Thijs Verwijmeren, Vera Rommeswinkel and Johan C. Karremans gave men cognitive tests after they had interacted with a woman via computer. In the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the male cognitive performance declined after the interaction, or even after the men merely anticipated an interaction with a woman.

Women inhibit their own performance. In a study published in Self and Identity, Shen Zhang, Toni Schmader and William M. Hall gave women a series of math tests. On some tests they signed their real name, on others they signed a fictitious name. The women scored better on the fictitious name tests, when their own reputation was not at risk.

High unemployment rates may not hurt Democratic incumbents as much. In the American Political Science Review, John R. Wright looked at 175 midterm gubernatorial elections and four presidential elections between 1994 and 2010. Other things being equal, high unemployment rates benefit the Democratic Party. The effect is highest when Republicans are the incumbents, but even when the incumbent is a Democrat, high unemployment rates still benefit Democratic candidates.

People filter language through their fingers. In a study published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Kyle Jasmin and Daniel Casasanto asked people to rate real words, fictitious words and neologisms. Words composed of letters on the right side of the QWERTY keyboard were viewed more positively than words composed of letters from the left side.

We communicate, process and feel emotions by mimicking the facial expressions of the people around us. For a study in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Paula M. Niedenthal, Maria Augustinova and others studied young adults who had used pacifiers as babies, and who thus could not mimic as easily. They found that pacifier use correlated with less emotional intelligence in males, though it did not predict emotional processing skills in girls.

Judges are toughest around election time. Judges in Washington State are elected and re-elected into office. In a study for The Review of Economic Statistics, Carlos Berdejó and Noam Yuchtman found that these judges issue sentences that are 10 percent longer at their end of the political cycle than at the beginning.

New fathers pay less. In a study for the Administrative Science Quarterly, Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross studied male Danish C.E.O.’s before and after their wives gave birth to children. They found that male C.E.O.’s generally pay their employees less generously after fathering a child. The effect is stronger after a son is born. Female employees are less affected than male employees. C.E.O.’s also tend to pay themselves more after the birth of a child.

Affluent neighborhoods challenge mental equilibrium. In a study for the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Terese J. Lund and Eric Dearing found that boys reported higher levels of delinquency and girls reported higher levels of anxiety and depression when they lived in affluent neighborhoods compared with middle-class neighborhoods. Boys’ delinquency and girls’ anxiety-depression levels were lowest when they were from affluent families living in middle-class neighborhoods.

Premarital doubts are significant. In a study in the Journal of Family Psychology, Justin Lavner, Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury found that women who had cold feet before marriage had significantly higher divorce rates four years later. Male premarital doubts did not correlate with more divorce.

Women use red to impress men. In a study for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Andrew Elliot, Tobias Greitemeyer and Adam Pazda found that women expecting to converse with an attractive man were more likely to select a red versus green shirt than women expecting to converse with an unattractive man or another woman.

Birth date affects corporate success. In a study for Economics Letters, Qianqian Du, Huasheng Gao and Maurice Levi found that C.E.O.’s are disproportionately less likely to be born in June and July.

It’s always worth emphasizing that no one study is dispositive. Many, many studies do not replicate. Still, these sorts of studies do remind us that we are influenced by a thousand breezes permeating the unconscious layers of our minds. They remind us of the power of social context. They’re also nice conversation starters. If you find this sort of thing interesting, you really should check out Kevin Lewis’s blog at National Affairs. He provides links to hundreds of academic studies a year, from which these selections have been drawn.

 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 15, 2012

 

An earlier version of this column misstated the findings of a study in the journal Economics Letters about corporate success. It found that C.E.O.’s were disproportionately less likely — not disproportionately likely — to have been born in June and July.”

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January 19, 2013 · 11:11 pm