Why Are So Many Americans of Millennials and Generation Z Unhappy?

There has been a recent decline in the level of happiness and well-being among the American population, and young men and women from Millennials and Generation Z are leading the downward spiral. American Millennials and Generation Z are currently the most unhappy in the United States, according to a new survey.

What the 2024 World Happiness Report Revealed

The World Happiness Report of 2024 revealed that self-reported data from those under the age of 30 knocked the United States out of the top 20 happiest countries for the first time since the annual report’s inception in 2012.

It is worth noting that young people in Canada and other English-speaking countries also reported a decrease in happiness.

Different from this pessimistic tendency, young women and men in many other countries have an increase in their feelings of well-being. The report revealed that young people in central and eastern Europe, as well as certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa, experienced a rise in their level of happiness.

We still don’t fully understand why young people in these regions experience a different trend from those in the U.S., Canada, and other English-speaking countries. Their findings, however, indicate that this declining trend in happiness is not global.

What Makes the Current Young Americans Unhappy?

Key factors that significantly contributed to the rapid decline included young people’s dissatisfaction with their living conditions, social support systems, diminishing trust in the government, and a perception of reduced personal freedom in making life decisions.

As journalist Christopher Cann from “USA TODAY” commented, young Americans said that they were unhappy and disappointed because of the economy, the cost of housing, student loan debt, political polarization, social media, climate change, and the war in Gaza.

Women and men of Millennials and Generation Z Gen mentioned that several things, from high rent and debt to the comparison culture on social media, had left them feeling tired and unhappy.

Researchers agree that the trends in the decline in the feeling of happiness among young people in the USA, Canada, and some other English-speaking countries are worrisome.

A combination of factors, rather than a single cause, can be responsible for the decrease in life satisfaction among young men and women. Individuals’ physical well-being, academic performance, involvement in community activities, and financial income correlate with their happiness and satisfaction levels.

Among other things, an epidemic of loneliness makes young Americans unhappy. Experts have also expressed concern about an epidemic of loneliness among teenagers and young adults in America. This psychological experience has surged alongside an increase in virtual schooling and remote work, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Can We Expect in the Future?

According to researchers, one of the most reliable indicators of adult happiness is the level of happiness experienced during childhood and adolescence. This correlation raises concerns that American teens and young adults’ discontent may only worsen as they get older.

Typically, the level of happiness is highest among young individuals and decreases to its lowest point during middle age (40–60) before gradually increasing again as individuals approach retirement and old age—a phenomenon commonly referred to as the U-shape.

Over the course of several years, experts have observed a gradual decrease in variation in the United States. However, this year, the extent of this decrease has become extreme and very recognizable.

As Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, stated:

“Honestly, I look at these data with terror, not just because of what they reveal about our country right now, but what they will reveal about our country in the future unless we change this pattern”

What Can Be Done to Make People Happier?

Both external (socioeconomic) and internal (personal) factors influence how men and women feel and experience life—happy or unhappy.

It is evident that there are several economic and social changes that society can implement to support the healthier and happier development of young women and men.

Nevertheless, young people have their own ability to improve their own well-being. Extensive research has consistently demonstrated that people can enhance their satisfaction in life and happiness by engaging in certain behaviors. These include increasing face-to-face social interactions, practicing self-compassion, and allocating dedicated time away from work, school, and other responsibilities.

The Power of an Individual Choice

Here’s an example from Christopher Cann about what young Americans believe causes them to be unhappy.

Ashlie Marchant, a second-year student at the University of Central Florida, recognized social media as the primary catalyst for discontentment in her own life and the lives of her friends. She deleted TikTok from her mobile device. She attempts to resist the compulsion to scroll on the screen.

“I’m trying to lean off of social media. It’s so easy to get caught up in it, and all it does is make me unproductive and upset.”

Marchant, age of 20 years, said.

Marchant preferred to read a paperback novel while sitting in a public park. She expressed her adoption of tangible forms of media, such as film photography and vinyl records.

How Online Dating Changed Cross-Cultural Love and Relationships

The last several decades have witnessed the emergence and extensive development of dating websites. This progress greatly changed the way partners meet, love, and how their relationships evolve.

How Dating Websites Emerged and Expanded

It may look surprising that the first dating websites came only in the 1990s. In 1995, Match.com went online. In the early 2000s, a new wave of dating sites like OKCupid came out. When Tinder came out in 2012, it changed dating even more. There are now more than one-third of marriages that begin online. This data, however, varies across cultures.

These websites have obviously had a significant influence on dating behavior. However, evidence is mounting that their impact is far more substantial. Interesting statistical data from research shows the variety of places and ways in which partners met each other over the last decades.

How Traditional Networks of Dating Work

The social networks associated with family, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances were the most prevalent sources of prospective dating partners. People are strongly connected to a small group of neighbors and only loosely connected to people who live far away. It turns out that these loose connections are very important.

Loose ties have traditionally played an important role in meeting partners. While most people were unlikely to date one of their best friends, they were much more likely to date someone from their group of friends, such as a friend of a friend. Men and women met their partners through their families, at church, through mutual friends, in bars, in educational institutions, at work, and so on.

The Modern Way of Online Dating

The networks of dating have changed with the onset of online dating. Nowadays, heterosexual couples meet through online dating, which is the second most popular method. It’s the most popular choice by far for homosexual couples.

Online dating has led to significant consequences, extending the pool of potential dating partners. “People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” say Josue Ortega from the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich from the University of Vienna in Austria, the authors of the recent study.

Online Dating Is Conducive to Intercultural Marriages

These new opportunities extended chances for intercultural relationships, love, and marriages. Some societies are more favorable for intercultural marriages than others.

The statistics of intercultural marriages in the United States of American present a good example for analysis. For instance, J. Ortega and P. Hergovich compared the rates of interracial marriages in the U.S. over the past several decades and found that the number of interracial marriages increased for some time, but the rates were still low.

However, the rates of increase in interracial marriages substantially changed at about the time that online dating became popular. The researchers say,

“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly.”

When online dating became even more popular, this increase in interracial marriages became even steeper in the 2000s. Later, in 2014, the proportion of interracial marriages expanded again. “It is interesting that this increase occurred shortly after the creation of Tinder, considered the most popular online dating app,” researchers say.

Married Couples Who Meet Online Are More Stable

It is worth noting that, with about 50 million users, Tinder produces over 12 million matches daily. In the meantime, research into the strength of marriage has discovered some evidence that married couples who meet online have lower rates of marital breakup compared to those who meet in traditional settings.

Gratitude and Love in Cultural Perspective

The grateful attitude and emotions toward other people and life are referred to as gratitude. When we express gratitude for what other people and life have given us, we experience several situational emotions. When we are grateful, thankful, and appreciative to someone for something, we can feel a variety of positive emotions. Gratitude and love commonly go hand in hand and are closely related to each other.

Gratitude and Love in Our Life

As I showed in another article, gratitude and love frequently go together. Not only does the experience of gratitude entail the emotion of love, but love also implies the expression of gratitude.

Love frequently involves expressions of gratitude and appreciation. Love, gratitude, and appreciation are deeply relational feelings that encompass a wide range of dispositions, moods, and situational emotions and feelings. Participants use a variety of methods to express their feelings of love, including loving others, loving oneself, receiving love, and feeling thankful for love.

A Chinese Cultural Perspective on Gratitude and Love

The indigenous Chinese concept of “enqing” means grateful love (Chen & Li, 2007). This type of love includes the feelings of responsibilities and obligations associated with a spouse’s feelings of appreciation, gratitude, and indebtedness for what the partner does for the marriage. The origins of “enqing” are in Chinese relationship orientation and the traditional Confucian value of duty in marriage.

While Western marital intimacy is characterized by feelings of togetherness and compatibility, Chinese marital intimacy is characterized by feelings of admiration and gratitude.

The Chinese Concept of “Enqing”

People in traditional Chinese society typically place little emphasis on marital intimacy. Instead, “enqing”—the expression of gratitude and admiration—may bind Chinese couples closely together.

Many researchers have identified “enqing” as the primary element of Chinese marital affection and love (e.g., Li & Chen, 2002; Tang, 1991; see for a review, Karandashev, 2019). In traditional Chinese marriage, “enqing” plays a central role in marital affection and love. The four pillars of Chinese couples’ love are:

(a) feelings of gratitude,

(b) admiration,

(c) togetherness, and

(d) compatibility

(Chen & Li, 2007).

How Gratitude and Love Develop in Chinese Marriage

Why and how does this kind of grateful love between married people grow?

In traditional Chinese culture, parents frequently arrange marriages. Under these conditions, many people got married without knowing each other well. Moreover, even after they get married, Chinese cultural norms do not consider the intimate relationship between the couple as important. The “enqing“, or expression of gratitude and admiration, develops from conjugal love and role fulfillment. That is what keeps Chinese couples together and close.

People experience intimacy more frequently in modern Taiwanese (Chinese) marriages than ever before. However, the presence of “enqing” remains. Modern Western ideas about love have an effect on Chinese marriages. Nevertheless, the traditional Chinese idea of “enqing” has not gone away (Li & Chen, 2002).

How the Expression of Gratitude Differs in Chinese and American Cultures

A series of cross-cultural studies examined the impact of verbal and nonverbal expressions of appreciation on the quality of romantic relationships in “high-context, collectivistic cultures and low-context, individualistic cultures” (Bello et al., 2010, p. 294).

The authors discovered that in cultures such as the United States and China, appreciation takes different forms and plays different roles in relationships. Participants from both countries listed specific ways they express gratitude in a romantic relationship.

The results show that Chinese participants prefer nonverbal expressions of appreciation over verbal ones, while American participants favor both verbal and nonverbal ones.

Overall, data showed that Americans use significantly more frequent expressions of gratitude in love than Chinese people. This is mostly due to the extensive use of verbal expressions in the United States. Chinese people, on the other hand, use more indirect ways to express gratitude in love than Americans see for a review, Karandashev, 2019).

Can People Build a True Egalitarian Society?

The idea of an egalitarian society, in which social equality between people is a cultural norm, sounds good for a society to be fair to all. Many could declare their desire to be fair-minded to others. However, this cultural value of an egalitarian society is hard to achieve in social reality. Why so?

Generally, the idea of an egalitarian society where people are socially equal may sound good. It is nice and fair when it is abstract. People in general, and particularly those who belong to the high and middle classes, so-called privileged people, tend to view inequality as something impersonal and fairly distant.

However, they follow this tendency only up to the point when they encounter real intergroup comparative contexts.  Then, they tend to perceive inequality with personal and social bias. As Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California, Paul Piff commented in this regard,

The new progressive social policies aim to reduce inequality and help the poor. These proposed policies may not necessarily motivate wealthy people to support such initiatives. These policies rarely make an appeal to the self-interests of people from the upper social class. Therefore, these advantaged people prefer to preserve the status quo as it benefits them.

In-group Versus Out-group Biases

In-group versus out-group bias and self-interest of people who are currently in a privileged social status play a role in resisting progress in social equality. As N. Derek Brown and his colleagues showed in their experiments (Brown et al., 2022), people of a privileged group consider social equality as good only if it increases equality within their social ingroup but not when it increases in another social group. These studies revealed that equality can appear in a negative shadow for people who have a privileged status because of in-group and out-group biases. Therefore, they misunderstand the social consequences of inequality and social disparities.

What the Old Allegory Teaches Us about Modern False Perceptions of Equality

In a deep-rooted folk parable, God appeared before Vladimir, a poor peasant, and offered to grant him one wish. God told him that he could wish anything.

“Vladimir, I will grant you one wish. Anything you wish for shall be yours.”

Vladimir was excited and started to turn over the numerous possibilities in his head.

But then God adds a stipulation: Anything that he grants Vladimir, he also grants twice to Ivan, Vladimir’s neighbor.

“Anything, I grant to you, I will give to your neighbor, Ivan, twice over.”

After giving it some thought, Vladimir replied,

“Okay, God, I want you to gouge one of my eyes out.”

This punchline tells us something quite intriguing about how paradoxically people can behave in situations of choice.

What Is the “Minimal Group Paradigm” and How Does It Work in Our Group Relations

This fable reminds me of the “Minimal Group Paradigm,” the theory that social psychologist Henri Tajfel developed in his research in the 1970s. He discovered that people willingly categorize people into in-groups and out-groups.
Once we identify ourselves with a group, we come up with explanations of why we are better and why we should all be in the same group. As it turns out, group identity hates a dry spell.
When groups are divided, we naturally favor our own. But what’s more, we prioritize immediate relative gain over absolute overall gain. In his studies, Tajfel demonstrated that the one thing we never do is try to maximize the final result for everyone. Therefore, even though we could all benefit, we’d prefer not to if it meant that the other group would benefit more.

According to Brown and his colleagues’ findings (Brown et al., 2022), even when the people of a privileged group stand to gain some benefits, they frequently refuse to assist a disadvantaged group. Even though they say they want more equality in society, they tend to keep and protect their relative advantage.

How American History Illustrates This Grim Truth About Inequality

The grim history of American racism exemplifies the paradox of social inequality. This is how the policy advocate and New York Times author describes it in her recent book, “The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together.”

McGhee, H. (2022). The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together. One World. In the 1940s and 1950s, some white American communities were forced to integrate public pools and parks, which grew in popularity. Then, many of them frequently chose to destroy the spaces rather than share them with their black neighbors.

The Last Equality Study Showed a Grimmer Perspective on Equality

Many modern societies have made great strides in promoting social equality. Some nations promote equality more than others. In Western and northern European countries, social equality has advanced quickly. The U.S. equality movement is slower. Voters and policymakers often oppose equality legislation.

Why do conservatives and liberals oppose fair proposals that benefit all? A series of studies have shown that they just misunderstand contexts and, therefore, resist social equality.

Here Is What the Previous Studies on “Zero-sum” Mindsets Revealed

In my previous articles, I presented several experiments conducted by N. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022). Their results showed the hidden role that people’s “zero-sum” thinking plays in making them have opposing thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

They agree with equality and see it as a positive change in their privileged social group. However, they oppose equality once it increases between their own and other social groups.

The following experiments produced even more striking results. Researchers formed a fictitious “privileged” group of Rattlers and offered them the chance to take actions endorsing or opposing certain equality policies.

Unexpectedly for researchers, the Rattlers perceived the win-win scenario to be marginally more detrimental to their interests than the lose-lose proposal. Therefore, they preferred “the lose-lose” option over “the win-win” option as a desired policy. These findings are extremely compelling and “grim.” As Derek Brown and his co-authors noted (Brown et al., 2022),

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization.”

Researchers attempted to address scarcity concerns and assure people that a more equitable policy would not affect their opportunities. Nevertheless, people tend to oppose such equality policies.

What the Final Eagles-Rattlers Experiment Showed

In a second Eagles-Rattlers experiment, the Rattlers were given two options to reduce inequality. In the “unharmful” option, the Eagles get more resources without any change for the Rattlers. The “harmful” option involved the Rattlers getting less, with no change for the Eagles.

Researchers presented those options side-by-side. They wanted to help people recognize that the unharmful one is the more rational choice. Therefore, people would have a chance to choose the less harmful one. Even though the Rattlers chose that option as policy, they still saw it as more harmful to their interests than the harmful option. The study demonstrates why equality is bad or appears to be bad for many people of privileged social classes. Inequality and disparities persist because people fundamentally misunderstand the social consequences of their actions.

These Studies Still Provide a Possibility of a Positive Perspective for Equality

On the bright side, the researchers found that people from advantaged social groups are much more open to policies that reduce inequality within their social group. This could help explain why some countries with less racial diversity than the U.S., like Scandinavia, have been better at making equitable social policies.

What Can Policy Makers Do to Increase American Social Equality?

Brown and his co-authors say that American progressive policymakers could use the findings of these studies to promote national unity. On the other hand, conservative Republican lawmakers increasingly do the opposite. They put social groups against each other based on gender, race, religion, citizenship, and party affiliation.

What Do Authors Suggest to Better Promote Equality?

In conclusion, the researchers suggest,

 “A critical next step concerns how the negative effects of zero-sum equality perceptions can be averted or how we can make progress toward equality despite these misperceptions.”

The question remains,

“How can advantaged groups be convinced to relinquish their relative advantages even as doing so inherently feels like a material concession?”

These studies do not present an optimistic picture for the future of American equality. However, Derek Brown advises policymakers that even though backlash is probably unavoidable, they can promote the change with the justification and motivation to create equality policies. Particularly when establishing a more equal and equitable society is on the table, the risk is still worth the reward (Brown et al., 2022).

These Experiments Show Why Equality Is Bad or Looks Bad

Many modern societies have made great strides toward implementing social policies and practices that promote social equality. However, cultural values of equality spread more rapidly in some nations than in others.

Significant progress toward social equality, for example, has occurred relatively quickly in Western and Northern European countries. However, the social movement toward equality in the United States of America remains slow. The legislative initiatives face resistance from many voters and policymakers. They are often reluctant to support such equality policies. The intriguing question remains why so many people, both conservatives and often liberals, oppose such apparently fair proposals that can benefit all. Nevertheless, they mistakenly perceive the contexts of possible outcomes and resist social equality.

What the Preceding Studies Showed

In my previous post, I described some of the experiments conducted by N. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022), which discovered the hidden role that people’s “zero-sum” mindsets play in affecting their oppositional opinions, attitudes, and actions. Because of this, they believe that equality can lead them to lose their advantageous status. They agree with the idea of equality and perceive this as a positive change when equality increases within their own privileged social group. However, they oppose this idea of equality and perceive this as an undesirable shift when equality may increase between their own and other social groups.

Here Are the Other Experiments with Equality, Even More Convincing

The results of the following experiments were especially striking. Researchers made up a special “privileged” social group. They administered a personality test (a bogus test). Then, the researchers told participants that, based on their “test results”, they placed them in either the Eagles or the Rattlers group. In fact, the researchers assigned all of them to the Rattlers’ group. This group held a position of advantage over the Eagles, a fictitious social group. Then, the researchers proposed the Rattlers to reduce the disparity between them and the Eagles. They could take one of two actions:

  1. Either making both groups better off while helping the Eagles more (the win-win, equality-enhancing option)
  2. Or making everyone worse off while harming the Eagles more (the lose-lose, inequality-enhancing option).

Surprisingly and counterintuitively, the Rattlers perceived the win-win scenario to be marginally more detrimental to their interests than the lose-lose proposal. Therefore, they favored “the win-win” option less than “the lose-lose” option as a desired policy.

What Is Especially Striking About These Findings?

One can see that these findings are very convincing. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022) characterize these as “grim.” They commented that

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization”

As Paul Piff, Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California, remarked,

People in general, and particularly elites, “tend to perceive inequality as something abstract and fairly distant. Inequality-mitigating policies are often framed in terms of policies to help the poor, which isn’t necessarily all that motivating for (some) folks. In a sense, then, combatting inequality rarely appeals to self-interest, which is a massive motivation for those advantaged in society to preserve the status quo insofar as it benefits them.”

The Important Conclusion of These Experiments

People tend to resist such equality policies, even when researchers address scarcity concerns and assure people that a more equitable policy will not affect their opportunities. Thus, this study demonstrates why equality is bad or looks bad to many privileged people. Inequality and disparities continue to occur because people fundamentally misunderstand their social consequences.

These Experiments Show Hidden Reasons Why Privileged Social Classes Can Be Against Equality

The social policies and practices of social equality have progressed significantly in many contemporary societies. People in some countries, such as Scandinavia and other North European countries, adopted equality cultural values more quickly and easily than in others. However, in the United States of America, progress on equality is still sluggish and encounters opposition from voters and policymakers. People may explicitly express their support for social equality. Yet, implicitly, they may be reluctant to adopt the policies and practices of equality.

Why does such a discrepancy take place? Why do people tacitly resist equality?

Why Did Researchers Explore “Zero-sum” Beliefs?

A group of researchers led by N. Derek Brown (Brown et al., 2022) looked into the effects of conservative ideology, belief in the status quo, a preference for social hierarchies, and the “zero-sum” worldview of people who prefer to maintain their social advantage.

The study took a special interest in how the zero-sum mentality of men and women affects their opinions, attitudes, and actions. They think that equality can make it harder for them to get and preserve what they need. People in advantaged groups think it’s good when equality grows within their own group but not when it grows between groups. Researchers conducted a series of experiments with several samples of American participants. They discovered interesting results, illuminating why and how individuals in privileged social groups persistently believe that policies that advance equality are detrimental to their own interests. Accordingly, they mistakenly think that inequality is good.

What Did the First Set of Experiments Show?

For the first set of experiments, researchers recruited people from advantaged groups, such as white Americans, able-bodied people, men, and people who have never been convicted of a crime. Then the researchers showed them the proposals that would improve the resources available to members of a less-advantaged group, such as Latino Americans, people with disabilities, women, and people who have been convicted of a crime. In this experimental condition, researchers did not take anything away from the advantaged group. In some cases, researchers openly told the participants from this advantaged group that there were no limits on the resources. Therefore, these proposals to improve equality would not harm their own prospects. Still, on average, these people thought the proposals were bad. Nevertheless, these participants mostly perceived the proposals as harmful.

Here Is Another Experiment on Equality Beliefs 

Prior to the November 2020 election, researchers conducted another experiment among white, East Asian, and South Asian California voters. The researchers asked about a ballot initiative that would repeal an existing ban on affirmative action in public employment, contracts, and university admissions. Researchers considered these people to be the privileged group because many of them, compared to other social groups, studied at public universities or worked in the public sector.

Two-thirds of these respondents said they were liberal. Nevertheless, they thought that allowing affirmative action programs would have hurt their chances of getting public sector jobs, contracts, and college spots for their families. The results of this experiment showed that when they thought affirmative action would hurt their own interests, they more likely answered that they would vote against this proposition. The general vote that year did not support this affirmative action proposal.

Conclusion

Thus, the results of the first set of experiments supported the researchers’ prediction that “zero-sum” attitudes strongly affect people’s actions against social equality.

Why Is Inequality in American Society So Persistent?

In the United States of America, equality is frequently declared to be a high cultural value. And there is undeniable evidence of the progress that American society has made in the social practice of equality during the 20th century.

In many respects, however, equality in the United States is still not consistent and is far from ideal. Despite their declared aspiration for social equality, Americans are diverse in their opinions and attitudes toward equality.

Psychological Discrepancies in Declared Values and Actions

The division between liberals and conservatives is quite apparent in this regard. While many progressive men and women see social equality as a highly desirable cultural value in American society, many conservative men and women may disagree with this view of social life.

Even though many people say they believe in the value of equality, both liberals and conservatives from socially advantaged groups may act in ways that protect their advantage.

Members of socially privileged groups often support the idea of equality, but they use their privilege to make policies that keep inequality in place. This trend keeps going even though inequality threatens the prosperity of both poor and rich groups. Many believe that this “cognitive mistake” is more common for conservatives than for liberals. However, it is not always correct. Both conservatives and liberals are prone to such “cognitive mistakes” and advantage-protecting behavior. Whether conservative or liberal, we tend to cling to our advantages at all costs.

Why Are Privileged Americans So Resistant to the Idea of Equality?

A recent study (Brown et al., 2022) looked at how conservatism, believing in the status quo, liking social hierarchies, and having a “zero-sum” view of the world affect behavior that tries to gain an advantage.

People with a zero-sum way of thinking perceive many situations as zero-sum games. This is the zero-sum attitude, which considers one person’s gain as another person’s loss. The study has especially looked at the psychological role of the zero-sum attitude. This attitude makes people from privileged social groups misperceive policies that promote equality as being detrimental to their own interests.

This zero-sum attitude makes negotiators think that their interests will always be at odds with those of their counterparts. They hold this belief even in situations when there are ways to make one or both parties better off without hurting either.

According to this view, people think that even everyday things like buying food or a car result in a position of winner and loser. Because of these beliefs, policymakers and voters may think that new policies will hurt them more than help others, even though the opposite is true.

The Studies Revealed What Causes American Inequality to Be So Persistent

A series of studies with a total sample size of 4,197 participants demonstrated that members of privileged groups incorrectly perceive equality to be detrimental to their access to resources and inequality to be advantageous. Only when equality is increased within their ingroup, as opposed to between groups, do members of advantaged groups perceive it as harmless. Misperceptions persist even when equality-enhancing policies offer broad benefits to society. Misperceptions also persist when resources and resource access are unlimited.

In particular, a longitudinal survey of U.S. voters in 2020 revealed that voters’ perceptions of harm are a stronger predictor of voting against actual equality-enhancing policies than voters’ political and egalitarian beliefs.

And the two final experiments showed that advantaged people are more likely to vote for policies that increase inequality that hurt their finances than for policies that increase equality that help their finances. Even after a change was made to help people make better decisions, people still have the wrong ideas. Surprisingly, this mistaken belief that equality has to be a zero-sum game could be why inequality still exists, even though it has costs for society that hurt everyone.

The Cultural Value and Practice of American Equality

Equality is commonly declared as a high cultural value in American society. And it is true in many regards. Many legislative norms and practices demonstrate widespread equality in American daily life. However, American equality is still inconsistent and far from ideal in some respects.

What Is Social Equality?

Social equality means that all members of a society are treated equally. This may include having access to civil rights, freedom of speech, autonomy, and certain public goods and social services. Social equality implies that there are no legally recognized social class distinctions and that there is no discrimination based on a fundamental aspect of an individual’s identity.

The best form of equality is equity. Therefore, social equality means that individuals have equal opportunity, not necessarily equal availability. Ultimate social equality means that all individuals are equal in their opportunities,

  • regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation,
  • regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, social class, income,
  • regardless of their origin, language, opinions,
  • regardless of their health, and disability.

The Progress in American Equality

The history of American society has been quite controversial in terms of democracy and social equality. Even though American leaders always declared these social values, real legislative norms and practices were far from ideal.

The 20th century has made substantial progress in this regard. It has been especially true since the 1960s. Thanks to the efforts and persistence of countless American people and leaders. America has now come much closer to the ideal of equality upon which the country was founded. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom became a crucial momentum in this regard. One can see clear evidence of the progress in equality. For instance,

  • Race is no longer a barrier to entry at a lunch counter.
  • Restrictive covenants cannot legally state that only certain types of people can purchase certain types of homes.
  • Literacy tests are no longer a barrier to voting.

However, let’s take a closer look at the realities of today in various areas of American life. Studies have obviously demonstrated that real equality is still an ongoing process. Equality is still just a dream, rather than a reality, for many people in the United States.

Is Further Progress Good for American Culture?

On the one hand, many liberal and progressive men and women believe that social equality is good and is a desirable value for the future American culture. On the other hand, many conservative men and women may not think so.

For instance, white Americans, and white men in particular, have a tendency to view efforts to reduce prejudice toward black men and women as being prejudicial to them. This is especially true when the target population is black men and women. We have seen a lot of this conservative backlash against diversity and racial justice.

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization.”

And the psychology of advantage can explain this social psychological tendency in beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Whether we identify as conservatives or liberals, we tend to hold on to our advantages at all costs (Brown et al., 2022).

“Self-interest…is a massive motivation for those advantaged in society to preserve the status quo insofar as it benefits them.”

Several Effective Flirtation Tactics in Norwegian and American Cultures

Flirting is the art of seducing a potential romantic or sexual partner through playful verbal and nonverbal exchanges. A variety of factors, such as the gender of a person, his or her attractiveness, personality traits, and situational context, contribute to the success of flirting. Flirtation techniques can be nonverbal, such as using smiles, posture, and eye contact to express interest. Verbal flirtation techniques are the art of saying a compliment to a person of interest. All these ways of interpersonal communication are often involved in the initiation stage of romantic or sexual relationships. Some men and women enjoy these flirtation tactics all the time. This can be called a “playful style of love.” (Karandashev, 2022).

The New Cross-Cultural Study of Flirtation

The question remains: what flirtation tactics are more effective than others? Let us look at some new research evidence recently published in the journal of Evolutionary Psychology. According to the study, laughing at other people’s jokes is an effective technique for both men and women. However, in other regards, these flirtation tactics can be different for men and women.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of flirting in love relationships. The research question is whether these flirtation tactics are different for men and women.

The study was also interesting in terms of the effect of cultural contexts. The study was cross-cultural and compared perceptions of flirting among people living in Norway, a very gender egalitarian society, and people living in the United States of America, a more religious country. Researchers created four versions of the questionnaire:

  • a woman flirting with a man for short-term sex,
  • a woman flirting with a man for a long-term relationship,
  • a man flirting with a woman for short-term sex, and
  • a man flirting with a woman for a long-term relationship.

Participants filled out the questionnaires about their flirtation strategies, sociosexuality, extraversion, mate value, and religiosity.

The authors from Norwegian and American universities (Kennair et al., 2022) conducted the study among students in these two relatively different cultures. Two samples were used: one from Norway and one from the United States. Students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology made up their sample group in Norway. The US sample was made up of college students in the Northeast who were in their first to fourth years.

This study advanced our understanding of gender differences in flirting strategies in two countries. Here is a summary of some key findings.

Gender Similarities in Flirting Tactics

In the context of long-term relationships, men and women employ largely similar flirting strategies. For instance, the study supported the role of humor in interpersonal attraction and perception of mate value. Both men and women can effectively flirt by laughing at each other’s jokes. Such responses to humor through laughing or giggling are equally effective flirtation tactics in both men’s and women’s behavior during conversation.

Gender Differences in Flirting Tactics

The findings of the study revealed gender differences in flirting tactics. Men and women differ in the flirtation tactics they use and perceive as effective.

On the one hand, when women dressed sexy, showed off their bodies, or used sexualized physical contact, men liked these flirting tactics in the context of short-term mating relationships.

On the other hand, when men appear generous, committed, and able to maintain intimate conversations and spend time together, women perceive these flirting tactics as effective in the context of long-term mating relationships. Both findings are in accord with the traditional evolutionary interpretation of the different mating preferences of men and women (see for review Karandashev, 2022).

Cultural Differences in Flirting Between Norwegians and Americans

The United States sample was more religious than the Norwegian sample. That reflected on their use of flirting tactics. Participants in the Norwegian sample were more open in their sociosexual orientation, showing a willingness to engage in casual and uncommitted sexual relationships.

Americans are better at flirting by being generous and looking for attention than Norwegians are.