The Loh Down On Science

Coping Classes

When disaster strikes, what comforts more?  Friends?  Or cash?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley. He studies behavioral differences between the rich and the poor.

Recently, he asked whether during uncertain times--say recessions or hurricanes--the social classes cope differently.

Piff gathered people of varying ethnicities, education, and incomes. He primed them to feel anxious. For example, he had some people solve word puzzles about turmoil or negativity. He reminded students of tuition hikes and academic failure.

Then he asked each how they’d handle unexpected scenarios, like moving across the country for a better job.

Result?  Lower-class participants chose staying near family over the job. Upper-class participants said: Seriously! Take the job!

In general, Joe Six Pack valued communal coping strategies, while Fauntleroy Vanderbilt valued relying on his own money and resources.

The study suggests that during instability, class disparities can widen.

Which is why I say, in the next crisis, let’s bring back the healing tuna casserole!  Just sayin’.

<em>The Loh Down on Science</em> is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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