01 September 2010

Youth and schadenfreude

The Telegraph has an article which may go some way to explaining why I suffer fools less gladly than I may have done in my youth Far from feeling down about the younger generation's lifestyle and behaviour, the elderly actually revel in their misfortune.

A new study suggests that older people take a joyfully curmudgeonly approach to whippersnappers - when given a choice, older people prefer to read negative news, rather than positive news, about young adults, a new study suggests.

In fact, older readers who chose to read negative stories about young individuals actually get a small boost in their self-esteem, according to the results.

“Our results bolster the argument that people use the media to enhance their social identity,” said Professor Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, lead author of the study at Ohio State University.

Younger people, who are less certain about their own identity, prefer to read about other younger people to see how they live their lives, Prof Knobloch-Westerwick said. Older people, on the other hand, have greater certainty regarding their identity.

Prof Knobloch-Westerwick conducted the study with Matthias Hastall of Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen in Germany.

The study included 178 younger adults aged 18 to 30 and 98 older adults aged 50 to 65. All came to a computer laboratory, where they were told they were testing an online magazine that was not yet available to the public.

The experimental magazine was created specifically for the study and contained 10 carefully pre-tested stories. Each story focused on one individual, but there were two different versions: one that had a negative spin and one with a positive spin.

Each participant was offered just one of the two versions.
Participants in the study were told they would not have time to read all the stories and were asked to click on the stories that they found interesting. Each was given a random mix of positive and negative stories about younger and older people.

Results showed that the older participants were more likely to select negative articles about younger people, but they did not show a strong preference for either positive or negative stories about people in their own age group. Younger people showed low interest in articles about older individuals – regardless of whether the stories were positive or negative. They did choose to read more positive stories about their own age group than they did negative stories, she said.

Afterwards participants were given a short questionnaire aimed at measuring their self-esteem. Results showed that younger people showed no differences in self-esteem based on what they had read. However, the more that older people read negative stories about younger individuals, the higher the older people’s levels of self-esteem tended to be.

Well there you have it. Perhaps we just like to see the pups put in their place ☺


Steve Hayes said...

Sounds like positive self-esteem is not as desirable a trait as we are often told it is.

jams o donnell said...

Indeed Steve!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

That guy from the recent do in Discovery studio: her would process all the youngsters into cat food.

jams o donnell said...

Was that the siege thingy?