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Divided by Status: Upward Envy and Downward Scorn

Author(s): Fiske, Susan T.

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Abstract: Americans stand at a dramatically divisive point in our history, separated by inequalities not seen since the Gilded Age a century ago. Although received wisdom claims that we all are middle class, polls persistently show that we split equally between identifying as working class and as middle class. To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, the middle folks scorn the working folks and the working folks envy the middle folks; they both hate the rich folks and the poor folks; it’s as American as apple pie. Not to be glib, we are divided by social class in ways that we rarely acknowledge. My social psychology laboratory has been examining the ways that envy upward and scorn downward undermine us. Much of the theoretical ground- work appears in my book Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us. Envy and scorn reflect comparison. Envy may be defined as “I wish I had what you do (and I would like to take it away from you).” Scorn may be defined as “You are not worth my attention (and I wish you would go away).” Envy famously eats at the envious, linked with resentful rumination. It’s not too good for the envied, either, because they may be targets of violence. Likewise, scorn scars the scornful because it makes them clueless about the people they ignore, becoming socially inept in relationships. And being scorned, of course, is no one’s preference. If envy and scorn are so toxic, how do they poison us? This article will begin with background on the conceptual framework that informs our exploration, the Stereotype Content Model. Then I will sample three studies from our team’s empirical examinations: one on status, and one each on scorn and envy. All is not bleak, however, because envy and scorn can change under the right circumstances.
Publication Date: Sep-2013
Citation: Fiske, Susan T. (2013). Divided by status: upward envy and downward scorn.. Proc Am Philos Soc, 157 (3), 261 - 268
ISSN: 0003-049X
Pages: 261 - 268
Language: eng
Type of Material: Conference Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Proc Am Philos Soc
Version: Author's manuscript

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