Thursday, March 13, 2014

Several perspectives on rich versus poor.

The latest issue of Psychological Science has several articles reflecting different perspectives on rich and poor people:

An analysis noting that residents of poor nations have a greater sense of meaning in life than residents of wealthy nations:
Using Gallup World Poll data, we examined the role of societal wealth for meaning in life across 132 nations. Although life satisfaction was substantially higher in wealthy nations than in poor nations, meaning in life was higher in poor nations than in wealthy nations. In part, meaning in life was higher in poor nations because people in those nations were more religious. The mediating role of religiosity remained significant after we controlled for potential third variables, such as education, fertility rate, and individualism. As Frankl (1963) stated in Man’s Search for Meaning, it appears that meaning can be attained even under objectively dire living conditions, and religiosity plays an important role in this search.
Observations on distorted perceptions of incomes and income inequality in America:
Three studies examined Americans’ perceptions of incomes and income inequality using a variety of criterion measures. Contrary to recent findings indicating that Americans underestimate wealth inequality, we found that Americans not only overestimated the rise of income inequality over time, but also underestimated average incomes. Thus, economic conditions in America are more favorable than people seem to realize. Furthermore, ideological differences emerged in two of these studies, such that political liberals overestimated the rise of inequality more than political conservatives. Implications of these findings for public policy debates and ideological disagreements are discussed.
And, an examination of cognitive and behavioral implication of self-affirmation among the poor:
The poor are universally stigmatized. The stigma of poverty includes being perceived as incompetent and feeling shunned and disrespected. It can lead to cognitive distancing, diminish cognitive performance, and cause the poor to forego beneficial programs. In the present research, we examined how self-affirmation can mitigate the stigma of poverty through randomized field experiments involving low-income individuals at an inner-city soup kitchen. Because of low literacy levels, we used an oral rather than written affirmation procedure, in which participants verbally described a personal experience that made them feel successful or proud. Compared with nonaffirmed participants, affirmed individuals exhibited better executive control, higher fluid intelligence, and a greater willingness to avail themselves of benefits programs. The effects were not driven by elevated positive mood, and the same intervention did not affect the performance of wealthy participants. The findings suggest that self-affirmation can improve the cognitive performance and decisions of the poor, and it may have important policy implications.

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