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Does Anxiety Shape Society?
Kate Pickett is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of York and a National Institute for Health Research Career Scientist. She studied physical anthropology at Cambridge, nutritional sciences at Cornell and epidemiology at Berkeley before spending four years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. Her work, with Richard Wilkinson, on "The Spirit Level" was shortlisted for Research Project of the Year 2009 by the Times Higher Education Supplement, and their book was chosen as one of the Top Ten Books of the Decade, by the New Statesman.
Question: Why are humans prone to developing unequal societies?
Kate Pickett: Well, I think we’ve lived in every kind of society. I mean, for a lot of our existence as human beings, we’ve lived in fairly egalitarian, hunter/gather societies. But we’ve also lived in very hierarchical tyrannies as well. We clearly can manage to exist in both and develop all kinds of different societies. Why hierarchy seems to matter, why status differences matter so much and so the gap between rich and poor matters, is because as human beings, we are very sensitive to social relationship. We have an evolved psychology that makes us very aware about how others judge us.
If you think about it, some of the most difficult things to do, or the most potentially embarrassing situations wherein, those where other people can judge us negatively. Rather like what I’m doing now, which might go out and been seen by hopefully thousands of people and they might think I’m doing a good job, or a bad job, and being aware of that can make us feel very embarrassed, be very aware of how others judge us, and that really affects our psychology and our biology in very profound ways.
So, if we’re looking at societies where the social distances between people are bigger as they are in unequal societies, there’s just more potential for all of us to feel we are judged negatively by others and to feel that our status really matters, that it’s really important.
Question: What is the Social-Evaluative Threat?
Kate Pickett: Social-Evaluative Threat that’s a term psychologist’s use. There are two psychologists who looked at all the studies that other researches have done on what kind of stresses most reliably raise our cortisol levels. What kinds of stress most reliably stress us? And they usually do this kind of work by inviting students into the laboratory and asking them to do unpleasant tasks. The might ask them to solve math problems or to write about an unpleasant experience, or be videotaped doing something. And the question these researchers asked was, which kind of stress most reliably raises our stress hormone levels? And they found it was ones which contained a social-evaluative threat. So, it’s not so much having to do math problems, it’s having to read out your real marks at the end and your scores and share them with other people. It’s tasks in which other people can judge you negatively, that most reliably make you feel stressed.
Question: How does status anxiety link with consumerism?
Kate Pickett: Well, in our modern societies, we don’t really need to consume more stuff for basic survival. We consume, we shop, and we want to earn more money to show our status. And so, owning things that demonstrate that we are keeping up, keeping up appearances that show we are a valued member of society, that’s why we consume so much. In more unequal societies that competition for status is more important. And so, in more unequal societies there is a stronger drive toward status competition and consumerism. All of those things matter more, matters more to earn more money, not because you need more money for basic things, but you need to show your status relative to other people in society.
The most powerful source of stress for humans is the possibility of being judged negatively by others. As the epidemiologist explains, this social anxiety acts directly on our bodies and minds, providing the basis for some of our most irrational and unjust tendencies.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
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The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.