Socioeconomic status as child dictates response to stress as adult

July 6, 2011, University of Minnesota

When faced with threat, people who grew up poor are more likely to make risky financial choices in search of a quick windfall, according to new research from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.

Published in the , "The Influence of Mortality and on Risk and Delayed Rewards: A Life History Approach" by Carlson School assistant professor of marketing Vladas Griskevicius found that people respond to feeling threatened differently depending on whether people grew up in relatively resource-scarce or resource-plentiful environments.

The studies, which built upon earlier research on how cues influence reproductive timings, found those who grew up resource deprived or felt poor were more likely to take risks for immediate rewards when they felt threatened. Subjects who were raised in a more predictable world never worrying about their needs responded to the same by becoming more cautious.

"You can have two people who appear identical, but if they see that the world is a dangerous place such as by seeing news coverage of a new , they'll diverge in how they respond," Griskevicius says. "The difference between the two people is that they had a different socioeconomic experience growing up."

According to Griskevicius, a prototypical example of the findings is a kid who grows up in a bad neighborhood. "If he hears gunshots down the street, this triggers a 'live fast and die young' psychology. He will feel the urge to get what he can while he can because the future is uncertain." This response is likely related to why poorer individuals purchase more lottery tickets.

The research also suggests that efforts using a "you never know what's going to happen tomorrow" approach to persuade at-risk kids to stay in school or avoid might be ineffective.

"Why should I go to school if I might not be around to see the benefits of my education?" Griskevicius asks. "Perhaps a more effective strategy would be to highlight the predictable aspects of the world. "It's a sense of the predictability of the world that's going to get people to save money, stay in school, be less risky and care about the future."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.