Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

If we go over the fiscal cliff, will people spend or save? Childhood environments may hold the key

Date:
January 14, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
In the face of hard times, which strategy gives us the best shot at survival: saving for the future or spending resources on immediate gains? The answer may depend on the economic conditions we faced in childhood, according to new research.

In the face of hard times, which strategy gives us the best shot at survival: saving for the future or spending resources on immediate gains? The answer may depend on the economic conditions we faced in childhood, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Drawing on life history theory, Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and colleagues hypothesized that the strategy a person takes when times are tight may be determined, at least in part, by features of their childhood environment.

The researchers hypothesized that people who grew up unpredictable, harsh conditions (e.g., poverty), would take a "fast" strategy, focusing on immediate gains and ignoring long-term consequences. People who grew up in more predictable, comfortable conditions, however, would take a "slow" strategy, delaying immediate gratification in an effort to increase future payoffs.

In two experiments, the researchers primed half of the participants to think about economic recession. All of the participants then completed tasks related to risk-taking and impulsive decision-making.

Participants who grew up in poorer homes responded to recession cues with riskier, more impulsive responses than participants in the control group, consistent with a "fast" strategy. They were also faster to approach luxury good temptations. Participants who grew up in wealthier homes, on the other hand, responded to recession cues by showing less risky, less impulsive responses than participants in the control group, consistent with a "slow" strategy. They were also slower to approach the luxury goods.

In a third experiment, Griskevicius and colleagues found evidence that these different life history strategies may manifest as oxidative stress as detected in urine, a physiological indicator of cellular damage that can be accelerated by environmental stressors (such as those associated with poverty).

"These experiments show that our early childhood environment can program our life history strategy for the rest of our lives," says Griskevicius. "During good times, the tendencies associated with fast versus slow strategies can be dormant, but they emerge under duress."

Importantly, these tendencies can influence our responses in automatic and non-deliberative ways -- showing up even at the physiological level.

The trade-offs we make in times of scarcity have important consequences, but the researchers emphasize that neither strategy is inherently good or bad.

"Lots of research assumes that delay of gratification is always a good thing, but the current research suggests that it's sometimes smart to be impulsive," Griskevicius explains. "For people who expect to live in a harsh and unpredictable environment, it's more adaptive to be impulsive and maximize present resources and opportunities."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. V. Griskevicius, J. M. Ackerman, S. M. Cantu, A. W. Delton, T. E. Robertson, J. A. Simpson, M. E. Thompson, J. M. Tybur. When the Economy Falters, Do People Spend or Save? Responses to Resource Scarcity Depend on Childhood Environments. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612451471

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "If we go over the fiscal cliff, will people spend or save? Childhood environments may hold the key." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130114153430.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, January 14). If we go over the fiscal cliff, will people spend or save? Childhood environments may hold the key. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130114153430.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "If we go over the fiscal cliff, will people spend or save? Childhood environments may hold the key." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130114153430.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins