Economic Inequality Promotes Self-Aggrandizement

Richa and Poor

Rich and poor in São Paulo. Photo: Tuca Vieira (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Pretty much everybody thinks they’re better than average. But in some cultures, people are more self-aggrandizing than in others. Until now, national differences in “self-enhancement” have been chalked up to an East-West individualism-versus-collectivism divide. In the West, where people value independence, personal success, and uniqueness, psychologists have said, self-inflation is more rampant. In the East, where interdependence, harmony, and belonging are valued, modesty prevails.Now an analysis of data gathered from 1,625 people in 15 culturally diverse countries finds a stronger predictor of self-enhancement: economic inequality.

“We don’t know the precise mechanism, but it seems unlikely that it is primarily an East-West difference,” says University of Kent research associate Steve Loughnan. “It’s got to do with how your society distributes its resources.” The study — whose 19 collaborators represent 16 universities around the globe — will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study’s participants, university students, were asked to rate themselves from 1 to 7 on various personality traits — how much of it they possessed compared with the average student; and how desirable the trait was. Four versions of the questionnaire listed different traits from among 80; the traits related to agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, open-mindedness, and emotionality. The analytic design adjusted for differing cultural values.

The researchers looked at the correlations between evidence of self-enhancement and the individualism or collectivism of a country, its “power distance” — the preference for an autocratic hierarchy versus relative equality of power — and its level of economic inequality.

What they found: Virtually everywhere, people rate themselves above average. But the more economically unequal the country, the greater was its participants’ self-enhancement.

Read more here.

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  • brainbananas

    It has also been shown that a person’s own view of their status in life (financially, socially, etc…) based on those that they are in closer proximity to on a daily basis.  Basically if I’m the richest and most popular guy in the poorest neighborhood around, I’m going to be generally more satisfied with my overall life than the poorest and most hated person in a much better off community and socioeconomic situation, even if I’m vastly worse off than that person.  Seems to me like if a vast majority of people have frequent experiences dealing with or seeing people they view are in a higher socioeconomic class (such as the constant barrage of rich celebrities and having to deal with bosses that make such a greater amount of money and have much more privileges in life) they are almost forced to rationalize their own abilities/status in order to save face in a world they feel has been treated them unfairly and unequally, much like the “big rich stud in a crappy community” is able to look down on others and feel good about himself where the “well-off but  not compared to his neighbors and friends” person thinks he is a bum.

    • Anarchy Pony

      Spot on assessment.

  • brainbananas

    It has also been shown that a person’s own view of their status in life (financially, socially, etc…) based on those that they are in closer proximity to on a daily basis.  Basically if I’m the richest and most popular guy in the poorest neighborhood around, I’m going to be generally more satisfied with my overall life than the poorest and most hated person in a much better off community and socioeconomic situation, even if I’m vastly worse off than that person.  Seems to me like if a vast majority of people have frequent experiences dealing with or seeing people they view are in a higher socioeconomic class (such as the constant barrage of rich celebrities and having to deal with bosses that make such a greater amount of money and have much more privileges in life) they are almost forced to rationalize their own abilities/status in order to save face in a world they feel has been treated them unfairly and unequally, much like the “big rich stud in a crappy community” is able to look down on others and feel good about himself where the “well-off but  not compared to his neighbors and friends” person thinks he is a bum.

  • Wanooski

    Spot on assessment.

  • Wanooski

    Spot on assessment.

  • Wanooski

    Spot on assessment.

  • Wanooski

    Spot on assessment.

  • Wanooski

    Spot on assessment.

  • Curumim

    Talks too much and still dont means nothing.

  • Curumim

    Talks too much and still dont means nothing.

  • dogbeardbirdbeer

    Incidentally it’s also the grand subtext that lays beneath much of, if not most of, hip-hop. 

    Also see the Adam Curtis film “The Century Of The Self: 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyPzGUsYyKM

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      Man i love that this is getting around, great documentary

  • dogbeardbirdbeer

    Incidentally it’s also the grand subtext that lays beneath much of, if not most of, hip-hop. 

    Also see the Adam Curtis film “The Century Of The Self: 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyPzGUsYyKM

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Man i love that this is getting around, great documentary

  • ICE

    in brazil the rich are socialists and the poor are capitalists and communism is for government employees 

  • ICE

    in brazil the rich are socialists and the poor are capitalists and communism is for government employees 

  • Okarin

    there is literally the wrong side of the fence

  • Okarin

    there is literally the wrong side of the fence

  • Anarchy Pony

    Another case of science confirming the obvious? Like how maybe animals don’t want to be killed for our entertainment, and have emotional lives.

  • Wanooski

    Another case of science confirming the obvious? Like how maybe animals don’t want to be killed for our entertainment, and have emotional lives.

  • Anonymous

     Again, I repeat:Karl Marx had it almost right. At some point, capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That’s what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They’re not working. The individual can be rational. The firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else’s income and consumption. That’s why it’s a self-destructive process. But for the Socialists in Canada, who take taxes from both labor and corporation, and distribute this wealth in equal fashion to the people in forms such as free medical care, free schooling, subsidized post-secondary schooling, massive power plants of Solar, Hydro, Wind or even of nuclear nature, roadways for all to use, Good government, good policing of the system. Low rental housing, treatment for the mentally ill in place of mindless imprisonment. In Northern climates this system seems to work very well, and make for a really progressive society that grows at a rate that is sustainable – Birth control centers provide advice, services so women can choose, men can so get vasectomies, families can be limited to practical sustainable sizes. Even legal holidays are declared, minimum wages enforced, labor laws for health and safeties sake are enforced, hospitals are built , and all are given access, not just the richer folk. Corporations recognizing the higher productivity from healthy happy well educated people invest in this system, expect to pay taxes but still receive fair margin for their Capital, in production returned. The  “Great American Corporate and Capitalist Propaganda Whore’s” and their “Sales pitch bull Shiite” will cwertainly osfucate, fudge, waffle, fiddle even appeal to patriotic duties and other highly skilled manipulators to keep the vat American Army of workers at full load, but the truth is, theyr are being screwed good! Time now, to wake up, pay your national debt sown, restore the world’s faith in you and your dollar, and realize your real adversary os not China, isnot Asia but is “progress”. 
     

  • UncleB

     Again, I repeat:Karl Marx had it almost right. At some point, capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That’s what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They’re not working. The individual can be rational. The firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else’s income and consumption. That’s why it’s a self-destructive process. But for the Socialists in Canada, who take taxes from both labor and corporation, and distribute this wealth in equal fashion to the people in forms such as free medical care, free schooling, subsidized post-secondary schooling, massive power plants of Solar, Hydro, Wind or even of nuclear nature, roadways for all to use, Good government, good policing of the system. Low rental housing, treatment for the mentally ill in place of mindless imprisonment. In Northern climates this system seems to work very well, and make for a really progressive society that grows at a rate that is sustainable – Birth control centers provide advice, services so women can choose, men can so get vasectomies, families can be limited to practical sustainable sizes. Even legal holidays are declared, minimum wages enforced, labor laws for health and safeties sake are enforced, hospitals are built , and all are given access, not just the richer folk. Corporations recognizing the higher productivity from healthy happy well educated people invest in this system, expect to pay taxes but still receive fair margin for their Capital, in production returned. The  “Great American Corporate and Capitalist Propaganda Whore’s” and their “Sales pitch bull Shiite” will cwertainly osfucate, fudge, waffle, fiddle even appeal to patriotic duties and other highly skilled manipulators to keep the vat American Army of workers at full load, but the truth is, theyr are being screwed good! Time now, to wake up, pay your national debt sown, restore the world’s faith in you and your dollar, and realize your real adversary os not China, isnot Asia but is “progress”. 
     

  • Anonymous

    what does mean economic Equality in the country ?
    http://school5.sites.novedu.by/forum/member.php?u=3295

  • Jonathansmith1

    what does mean economic Equality in the country ?
    http://school5.sites.novedu.by/forum/member.php?u=3295

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