As long as I was trashing social psychologists, I thought I would give them a hearing (and they're always welcome to trash back in the comments). From a friend:

...As far as recent insights from psychology, here are a few things i've found interesting of late:

--lots of research on mindwandering, why we do it, why it is detrimental to happiness, but really important for social functioning

--lots of research on how judgment/behavior toward one's future self is similar to judgment/behavior toward another person

--research on inequity aversion--the tendency for people to really dislike unfair outcomes (even to their own detriment). manifests early on in kids, emerges in odd circumstances (like the nba), and seems to be the preference of most americans even if they don't vote for it (see attached).

I'm glad I asked! All of that sounds genuinely interesting, especially the third. Conflict theory is a hobbyhorse around here, and I've come to think that a tremendous amount of conflict (from squabbles to civil war) can be understood in terms of perceptions of fairness. It seems to me that people are a lot more likely to have a grievance if they see a disjunct between the way things are and the way things ought to be.

And although widespread perceptions often correspond to reality, the perceptions are probably more crucial than facts.  In the United States, for example, we have a Gini coefficient that suggests substantial inequity, but there is a widespread belief that opportunities for mobility. That increases people's sense that they are being fairly treated, and mitigates the potential for class conflict. (And it must be why a lot of voters hold opinions that seem irrational relative to their own economic interests, like opposing tax increases on the rich.)

 



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