A highly publicized Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study depicts Millennials as more egoistic than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. The research is flawed. The psychologists fail to see that kids today face new problems that previously weren’t imaginable and are responding to them in ways that older generations misunderstand.
The psychological study seems persuasive largely because the conclusions are supported by massive data. Investigators examined two nationally representative databases (Monitoring the Future and American Freshman surveys) containing information provided by 9.2 million high school and college students between 1966 and 2009. Such far-reaching longitudinal analysis seems to offer a perfect snapshot of generational attitudes on core civic issues.
Comparison makes Millennials look bad. According to the study, they aren’t just primed to consume more electricity and pass on community leadership. Overall, they’re ethically deficient: concerned less with the environment and keeping up with political affairs, while driven more by extrinsic values (money, fame, image) than intrinsic ones (self-acceptance, community, and group affiliation). The media couldn’t wait to spin these characterizations into headlines, running pieces like “Millenial Generation’s Non-Negotiables: Money, Fame, and Image” and “Young People Not So ‘Green’ After All”.
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