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Perceiving Society as Highly Mobile Leads to Materialism the Moderation of Socioeconomic Status Uncertainty

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Significance Recent debates about the failure of the education system in uplifting the disadvantaged have focused on the implications for social justice and stability. Learners’ psychology is understudied. How may a low-mobility learning environment, which signals a reduced potential for disadvantaged learners to achieve success, impact individuals’ recruitment of adaptive psychological processes? In both naturally existing and experimentally constructed contexts, we observe that low-mobility environments, as compared to high-mobility ones, are associated with reduced potency of the otherwise highly beneficial growth mindsets—the beliefs that one’s abilities and talents can be developed. Our study shows that stunted upward mobility in a learning environment incurs costs to individuals’ active learning and development.
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People commonly hold beliefs about social mobility, that is, perceptions of the likelihood to move up or down in society. What impact, if any, do these beliefs have on inequality, the societal status quo, and people’s own lives? How accurate are these views of where people end up in life and why? How can we characterize these beliefs? Through a review of existing research, we clarify the nature of social mobility beliefs and conceptualize how these beliefs affect society and individuals. For society, a consistent pattern emerges. Belief in social mobility leads to defense of the status quo and tolerance for inequality, but as we conceptualize, this occurs for abstract rather than concrete attitudes. On the personal level, social mobility beliefs relate to well-being and can affect the attainment of status-related goals, but this depends on individual difference factors, as well as the outcome being considered. This chapter also outlines opportunities for further research.
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Five studies provide converging evidence for the joint effect of perceived economic mobility and socioeconomic status (SES) on compensatory behavior, such that low SES consumers who perceive low economic mobility (i.e., economically stuck consumers) seek more variety than other consumers. We trace this effect to these consumers' desire to compensate for their low sense of personal control. Furthermore, we show that these consumers' variety-seeking tendency disappears when their sense of control is boosted by other means or when the more varied option is not associated with a sense of control. Alternative explanations based on instrumental benefits, reactance, and affect were tested and did not account for the effect. Thus, the current research provides fresh insights to consumer research by contributing to the literature on compensatory behavior, variety seeking, and SES. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Purpose The purpose of this study is to examine social mobility. Social mobility has traditionally been thought to result in a divided habitus. However, recent work has suggested that for the socially mobile, habitus may become blended or even that individuals can choose their habitus in a strategic fashion. Each position has received empirical support, raising two questions. First, does the experience of social mobility result in a habitus that is more divided or strategic? Second, what factors affect this outcome? Design/methodology/approach These questions are investigated by conducting depth interviews with people who have experienced social mobility. Findings The direction of social mobility determines what effect social mobility has on the habitus. For the downwardly mobile, the habitus appears to remain rooted in one’s former class. This is because downward movement is devalued, and so there is less incentive for those who experience it to change their thoughts, feelings or behaviors to match their new position. For the upwardly mobile, the habitus changes slowly. The trajectory and the subjective experience also affect the outcome. Two strategies respondents use to deal with social mobility are noted. Research limitations/implications Bourdieu’s notion of the divided habitus is reconsidered and compared to newer incarnations, and the importance of the direction of social mobility is underlined. This work explains why upward and downward mobility result in different changes in the habitus. Practical implications Investigating the experience of social mobility is particularly important given the frequent, dynamic nature of mobility in European countries. Two strategies used to manage downward mobility are identified. Originality/value This work reconsiders Bourdieu’s notion of the divided habitus and newer incarnations and explains why upward and downward mobility result in different changes in the habitus. Such a finding is not only an invitation to expand on the notion of habitus but also works to draw attention to other factors that play a role in habitus and strategies used to manage change.
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As psychological research on socioeconomic status (SES) continues to expand, greater attention should be devoted to the influence of social mobility and the dynamic and malleable aspects of SES on people's lives. Status-based identity describes how a person's socioeconomic circumstances relate to their broader sense of self and the meaning that they make of their own SES. Such an approach allows for complex study of the challenges and consequences of a change in SES. Research related to status-based identity suggests that although social mobility is often considered a signifier of reduced inequality, upward social mobility may also exacerbate other forms of inequality by instigating a destabilizing sense of status uncertainty that impairs motivation and well-being for class migrants.
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Psychological research on socioeconomic status (SES) has grown significantly over the past decade. In this article, we build upon and integrate existing approaches to direct greater attention toward investigating the subjective meaning and value that people attach to understanding their own SES as an identity. We use the term status-based identity to organize relevant research and examine how people understand and make meaning of their SES from moment to moment in real time. Drawing from multiple areas of research on identity, we suggest that even temporary shifts in how people construe their status-based identities predict changes in thought, affect, motivation, and behavior. This novel focus is positioned to examine the psychological effects of status transitions (e.g., upward or downward mobility). Further, in initial empirical work, we introduce a new measure to assess uncertainty regarding one’s SES (i.e., status-based identity uncertainty) and offer evidence that greater uncertainty regarding one’s status-based identity is associated with lower individual well-being. In sum, we argue that insight from the literature on identity will both expand and serve to organize the burgeoning literature on the psychology of SES and, in so doing, reveal promising new directions for research.
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Significance Lower socioeconomic status (SES) has been linked to increased risk of obesity. This relationship is generally assumed to be a product of low financial resources or greater stress associated with low SES that promotes unhealthy diets and lifestyles. We demonstrate here that the mere subjective experience of being lower in SES relative to others is alone sufficient to causally elicit behaviors that may risk obesity (e.g., preference, selection, and intake of greater calories), independent of actual economic deprivation or stress from being subordinated. Among social species, the physiological/psychological systems regulating hunger may have been adapted to be sensitive to perceived deprivation of critical social, material, and symbolic resources that underlie social class in addition to caloric deprivation.
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Seven studies (overall N = 3690) addressed the relation between people’s subjective socioeconomic status (SES) and their aggression levels. Based on relative deprivation theory, we proposed that people low in subjective SES would feel at a disadvantage, which in turn would elicit aggressive responses. In 3 correlational studies, subjective SES was negatively related to trait aggression. Importantly, this relation held when controlling for measures that are related to 1 or both subjective SES and trait aggression, such as the dark tetrad and the Big Five. Four experimental studies then demonstrated that participants in a low status condition were more aggressive than were participants in a high status condition. Compared with a medium-SES condition, participants of low subjective SES were more aggressive rather than participants of high subjective SES being less aggressive. Moreover, low SES increased aggressive behavior toward targets that were the source for participants’ experience of disadvantage but also toward neutral targets. Sequential mediation analyses suggest that the experience of disadvantage underlies the effect of subjective SES on aggressive affect, whereas aggressive affect was the proximal determinant of aggressive behavior. Taken together, the present research found comprehensive support for key predictions derived from the theory of relative deprivation of how the perception of low SES is related to the person’s judgments, emotional reactions, and actions.
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This paper examines the various motivations for consuming status products and proposes a conceptual model of status consumption that incorporates these differing motivations. Specifically, we propose that motivations for status consumption can be external (social) and/or internal (personal). Internal motivations focus on expressing inner values and tastes rather than group concerns, and include hedonism, perfectionism (a desire for quality), and self-reward and may result in more private and/or subtle consumption of status products. External motivations to consume for status focus on the social effects of owning luxury products and include conspicuous consumption (the Veblen effect), exclusivity (the Snob effect), and social identity (the Bandwagon effect) and may result in more public and/or conspicuous consumption of status products. The managerial and research implications of the model are also explored.
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Increasing social mobility is the ‘principal goal’ of the current Coalition Government’s social policy. However, while mainstream political discourse frames mobility as an unequivocally progressive force, there is a striking absence of studies examining the long-term impact of mobility on individuals themselves. In British sociology the most influential research was carried out by Goldthorpe 40 years ago and argued that the mobile were overwhelmingly content with their trajectories. However, using a critique of Goldthorpe as its springboard, this article calls for a new research agenda in mobility studies. In particular, it proposes a large-scale re-examination of the mobility experience – one which addresses the possibility that people make sense of social trajectories not just through ‘objective’ markers of economic or occupational success, but also through symbols and artifacts of class-inflected cultural identity. Such enquiry may yield a richer account that explains both the potential social benefits and the costs of mobility.
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This article reviews the sociological and economic literature on intergenerational mobility. Findings on social class, occupational status, earnings, and income mobility are discussed and discrepancies among them are evaluated. The review also examines nonlinearities in the intergenerational association, variation in mobility across advanced industrial countries, and recent mobility trends in the United States. The literature suggests an association between inequality and economic mobility at the country level, with the United States featuring higher inequality and lower mobility than other advanced industrial countries. However, mobility has not declined in the United States over the recent decades in which inequality has expanded. The inequality-mobility relationship fails to emerge when occupational measures of mobility are used, likely because these measures do not fully capture some mechanisms of economic reproduction.
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Although hierarchies are thought to be beneficial for groups, empirical evidence is mixed. We argue and find in 7 studies spanning methodologies and samples that different bases of hierarchical differentiation have distinct effects on lower ranking group members' disruptive competitive behavior because status hierarchies are seen as more mutable than are power hierarchies. Greater mutability means that more opportunity exists for upward mobility, which motivates individuals to compete in hopes of advancing their placement in the hierarchy. This research provides further evidence that different bases of hierarchy can have different effects on individuals and the groups of which they are a part and explicates a mechanism for those effects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
The ability to move upward in social class or economic position (i.e., social mobility) is a defining feature of the American Dream, yet recent public-opinion polls indicate that many Americans are losing confidence in the essential fairness of the system and their opportunities for financial advancement. In two studies, we examined Americans' perceptions of both current levels of mobility in the United States and temporal trends in mobility, and we compared these perceptions with objective indicators to determine perceptual accuracy. Overall, participants underestimated current mobility and erroneously concluded that mobility has declined over the past four decades. These misperceptions were more pronounced among politically liberal participants than among politically moderate or conservative ones. These perception differences were accounted for by liberals' relative dissatisfaction with the current social system, social hierarchies, and economic inequality. These findings have important implications for theories of political ideology. © The Author(s) 2015.
Article
One psychosocial factor that has been identified to motivate gambling is personal relative deprivation (PRD), which refers to resentment stemming from the belief that one is deprived of a desired and deserved outcome compared to some referent. Although several lines of evidence point to a positive association between PRD and the urge to gamble, the factors that might moderate this relation have yet to be investigated. Through a quantitative research synthesis, we sought to test (a) the overall relation between PRD and gambling urges among people reporting recent gambling experience, and (b) whether this relation is moderated by problem gambling severity. Meta-analysis revealed that, overall, higher self-reported PRD was associated with stronger urges to gamble (r = .26). A meta-regression revealed that, across studies, the strength of this relation depended on problem gambling severity, such that the relation between PRD and gambling urges was stronger among samples higher in average problem gambling severity. This pattern was corroborated by an analysis of the aggregated individual participant data (N = 857), such that PRD predicted gambling urges only among participants higher in problem gambling severity. The potential practical implications and limitations of these results are discussed.
Article
A core tenet of the American ethos is that there is considerable economic mobility. Americans seem willing to accept vast financial inequalities as long as they believe that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. We examined whether people's beliefs about the amount of economic mobility in the contemporary United States conform to reality. We found that (a) people believe there is more upward mobility than downward mobility; (b) people overestimate the amount of upward mobility and underestimate the amount of downward mobility; (c) poorer individuals believe there is more mobility than richer individuals; and (d) political affiliation influences perceptions of economic mobility, with conservatives believing that the economic system is more dynamic-with more people moving both up and down the income distribution-than liberals do. We discuss how these findings can shed light on the intensity and nature of political debate in the United States on economic inequality and opportunity. © The Author(s) 2014.
Article
This study tested common predictions from the absorption‐addiction model of celebrity worship and the empty self theory. A sample of 171 university students completed a set of scales that included celebrity worship, materialism, and compulsive buying, as well as self‐concept clarity, and several other measures of well‐being, such as boredom proneness, self‐esteem, and life satisfaction. As predicted, materialism and compulsive buying were significantly correlated with celebrity worship, extending research on the empty self theory. Celebrity worship, materialism, and compulsive buying were significantly related to lower self‐concept clarity and to lower levels of well‐being, supporting both absorption‐addiction and empty self theories. The results provide clear evidence for absorption‐addiction and empty self theory predictions of a compromised identity. Implications for future research were discussed.
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It is well accepted that materialism may result in a number of negative consequences, hence the importance of improving its understanding. In this paper, we propose that materialism negatively relates to self-concept uncertainty. Uncertainty about oneself is aversive and those feeling uncertain may use the possession of material objects as a way to reduce the uncertainty. Inasmuch as material objects can serve as concrete signs of self-worth, self-concept uncertainty can therefore relate to more materialism. Over two studies, one in Australia and the other in the US, with a total of 390 participants, our research demonstrates that lower clarity about one's self-concept associates with higher levels of materialism. While this result holds for both genders, this relationship is considerably stronger for women compared to men. We also find that lower self-concept clarity relates to higher compulsive buying. We further demonstrate that materialism relates to higher positive moods during shopping, and also relates to higher negative moods after shopping, more notably negative moods towards what was purchased. This effect is significant even when controlling for general affective states.
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The concept of the cultural omnivore has become increasingly influential in cultural sociology. Its proponents argue that it has become a badge of honour to be eclectic in one's cultural preferences and not be seen as a “snob”. It is even argued that omnivorousness provides a new source of social and cultural capital, enhancing one's ability to communicate with diverse groups and nurturing greater political tolerance. Drawing on a large-scale survey of British comedy taste and 24 follow-up interviews, this paper challenges existing representations of the omnivore. Among comedy consumers, I find omnivorousness only within one social group—the upwardly mobile. However, the life histories of these respondents reveal that omnivorousness is more a by-product of life trajectories—whereby lowbrow comedy taste is established during childhood but highbrow tastes are added as cultural capital grows. Significantly, though, this combination of tastes has more negative than positive implications, leaving mobile respondents uncertain of their cultural identities. While they lack the “natural” confidence to communicate legitimate tastes as embodied cultural capital, they are also acutely aware that their lowbrow tastes are considered aesthetically inferior. In short, these comedy consumers are culturally homeless, caught with one foot in two different taste cultures.
Article
We argue that perceived fairness of the income generation process affects the association between income inequality and subjective well-being, and that there are systematic differences in this regard between countries that are characterized by a high or, respectively, low level of actual fairness. Using a simple model of individual labor market participation under uncertainty, we predict that high levels of perceived fairness cause higher levels of individual welfare, and lower support for income redistribution. Income inequality is predicted to have a more favorable impact on subjective wellbeing for individuals with high fairness perceptions. This relationship is predicted to be stronger in societies that are characterized by low actual fairness. Using data on subjective well-being and a broad set of fairness measures from a pseudo micro-panel from the WVS over the 1990-2008 period, we find strong support for the negative (positive) association between fairness perceptions and the demand for more equal incomes (subjective well-being). We also find strong empirical support for the predicted differences in individual tolerance for income inequality, and the predicted influence of actual fairness.