PsyPost Summary and Reddit Conversation on Wiwad et al., 2021, JESP

Shortly after the publication of our paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted attitudes towards poverty and inequality, Eric Dolan of PsyPost did a great write-up summarizing the main conclusions. If you don’t have time to read the actual paper, checking out his summary is a great way to get the gist.

Following the publication of this PsyPost article somebody posted the paper to Reddit, where it got considerable attention with nearly 40,000 upvotes and a great discussion of over 1,800 comments. Many of the comments described personal anecdotes regarding how people have experienced the same effect we report in the paper, that experiencing a global pandemic makes us recognize that poverty is not just manifest laziness. For example, one redditor said:

The same thing happened with FDR because of polio. In his memoir he recounted laying in the polio ward and the many lying in the bed next to him was an old, poor, black man. Now he was a young, rich, white boy from OLD New England money. But there he was, laying there dying next to this man who was worlds apart from him, but in the end it didn’t matter. The disease came for everyone regardless.

And as he spend weeks in the ward he began to contemplate how it must be similar with wealth. There were people out there who didn’t catch polio and from where he sat the only thing different for them was luck and circumstance. And for all those who did catch it, it wasn’t because they’d done something wrong to deserve it, he certainly didn’t. So maybe, just maybe, it was the same with wealth. Wealth was more a matter of luck and circumstance than any intrinsic trait of the posser. And so his plans for expanding social programs for Americans began to take shape.

I found it insightful to read about how the findings of our paper rang true for many people experiencing difficulty amidst the pandemic. The thread is worth a read!

Dylan Wiwad
Dylan Wiwad
Quantitative Social Scientist

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.