Sharing my learnings from the book, The Broken Ladder by Keith Payne
The Broken Ladder by Keith Payne
The levels of inequality in the world today are on a scale that have not been seen in our lifetimes, yet the disparity between rich and poor has ramifications that extend far beyond mere financial means. In The Broken Ladder psychologist Keith Payne examines how inequality divides us not just economically; it also has profound consequences for how we think, how we respond to stress, how our immune systems function, and even how we view moral concepts such as justice and fairness
- Feeling poor has less to do with your material circumstances than with how they compare to those of others. Research shows that only about 20 percent of people who report feeling poor actually are poor.
- While we have physiological sensors in our bodies that help us answer a material question like “do you have enough food?” we don’t have sensors for answering an abstract question like “do you have enough money?” The only way we can make a judgment about that is by comparing ourselves with everyone else. Do other people seem to have nicer things? Do they seem to suffer less financial difficulty? If the answer is yes, we feel poor, no matter our actual income.
- Even people who aren’t objectively poor suffer negative consequences when they feel poor relative to others.
- we’re a species that not only cares about status but also about fairness. With the richest 85 people in the world holding as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, is it any wonder we’re increasingly frustrated?
- Inequality changes the way we think and act, encouraging risky and self-destructive behavior.
- People who saw themselves as high performers wanted the low performers excluded from decision-making – wanted them literally disenfranchised. Participants who saw themselves as low performers, by contrast, wanted everyone to have an equal vote, even those who disagreed with them. Feeling superior in status, in other words, magnifies people’s contempt for those who disagree with them.
- Societies with high inequality have worse health outcomes than those with more equal distribution.
- Inequalities in power, wealth, and status skew our perceptions of reality. This tendency to see patterns in randomness is called pareidolia, and it’s more common among people who see themselves as having low status. Because those at the bottom tend to feel powerless. They have less control over their lives and work compared to those at the top. For them, the predictability of patterns – their order and reliability – provide some solace in a world that feels out of their control.
- While pay inequalities can be motivational, they can also breed resentment. Today, they’ve reached such staggering heights that they’re more demotivating than inspiring.
- There are two key things we can do to combat inequality: One, reduce it. Two, exert more control over the way we compare ourselves to others.
- In the short term, you can learn to recognize when you’re in the throes of comparing yourself to others and consciously decide to choose your comparisons more wisely. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, for example, focus on what you do have.
- Another change you can make is to your context; we tend to compare ourselves to the people around us. If your social milieu makes you feel inferior – get a new one! The most effective method though, is to take a few minutes to think about what you really value in life.
- Once we get there, we might find ourselves better equipped to answer the question “do you earn enough money?” And beyond that, to join up with others to build a more egalitarian world.