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Knowledge & Infos

The psychology of inequality and political division



This is this interesting TED talk video I came across by Keith Payne, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, UNC, where he shares his views on psychology of inequality.

The TED talk by Keith Payne started off with some facts which focused on the topic of economic inequality. The data related to it showed that the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent in the United States have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, combined or that the wealthiest eight individuals in the world have as much wealth has the poorest 3.5 billion inhabitants of the planet. The facts were then followed by some questions which were really interesting and it definitely made everyone listening, to think about it. The question goes like this ” did you know that economic inequality is associated with shorter lifespans, less happiness, more Crime and more drug abuse?” He further explained about how those sound like problems of poverty but among wealthy, developed nations, those health and social problems are actually more tightly linked to inequality between incomes than to absolute incomes and because of that, the United States, the wealthiest and the most unequal of nations actually fares worse than all other developed countries.

He emphasized that how the large majorities of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, believe inequality is too high and want more equal pay and yet as a society, they don’t seem to be able to find the common ground, the consensus, the political will to do anything about it. He stated that inequality has risen in recent decades along with which political polarization has also risen and also calls out how we see those who disagree with us as idiots or as immoral. Nearly half of Democrats and Republicans now think that the other side is not just mistaken but a threat to the nation and that animosity prevents us from finding the common ground to change things.

Keith, who is a social psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, studies the effects of inequality on people’s thinking and behavior. His argument showed that it’s not just an unfortunate coincidence that inequality and political division have risen together. He adds to it that there are good psychological reasons that inequality drives wedges in our politics. That means there are good psychological paths to improve both at once.

To make us understand why inequality is so powerful, he first focused on to make us understand that we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people, and when we do that, we really like to come out on top, and we find it painful to be on the bottom. He said that Psychologists have called it “better-than-average effect. Digging a little deep into this term, he explained that most people believe they’re better than average at just about anything they care about, which isn’t strictly possible, because that’s just what average means. But that’s the way people feel. Most people think they’re smarter than average, harder working than average and more socially skilled. Most people think they’re better drivers than average. That’s true even if you do the study with a sample of people currently hospitalized for a car accident that they caused. So, we really want to see ourselves as better than average, and if we find out otherwise, it’s a painful experience that we have to cope with. And we cope with it by shifting how we see the world.

To add authenticity to the above-stated fact, he disclosed about the experiment ran by him and his collaborators, in which the participants were asked to complete a decision-making task to earn some money, and in reality, everyone earned the same amount of money. They were randomly divided into two groups, and it was told to one group that they had done better than average and the second group were told the other group they had done worse than average which leads to: one group that feels richer and one group that feels poorer, but for no objective reason. Then again they were asked some questions like “How good are you at making decisions? “the better-than-average group said that they were more competent than the below-average group. The better-than-average group said that their success was a fair outcome of a meritocracy. The below-average group thought the system was rigged, and in this case, of course, they were right. Even though the two groups had the same amount of money, the group that felt richer said we should cut taxes on the wealthy, cut benefits to the poor. Let them work hard and be responsible for themselves, they said. The conclusion of the experiment made it clear that these are attitudes that we normally assume are rooted in deeply held values and a lifetime of experience but a 10-minute exercise that made people feel richer or poorer was enough to change those views.

We can’t deny to what he said, that this difference between being rich or poor and feeling rich or poor is important because the two don’t always line up very well. After that, he shared a personal story which vey much fitted the topic. Most seem to agree when he told that we might have heard people say with nostalgia, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” as that was the case for him growing up, until one day, in the fourth-grade lunch line, he had a new cashier who didn’t know the ropes ,and she asked him for 1.25 dollars. Keith was taken aback, because he had never been asked to pay for his lunch before. He didn’t know what to say, because he didn’t have any money. And suddenly, he realized for the first time that the free lunch kids were the poor ones. That awkward moment in the school lunch line changed so much for him, because for the first time, he felt poor. They didn’t have any less money than the day before, but for the first time, he started noticing things differently. It changed the way he saw the world. He started noticing how the kids who paid for their lunch seemed to dress better than the free lunch kids, the big yellow blocks of government cheese that showed up at their door and the food stamps his mother would pull out at the grocery store. He was always a shy kid, but he hardly talked at all after that at school. Closing this story he said “Who was I to speak up?”

feeling less than other people brings shame. It makes people turn away, disgusted with the system

It was interesting to know how for decades, social scientists looked for evidence that feeling deprived compared to other people would motivate political action. They thought it would mobilize protests, strikes, maybe even revolutions. But again and again what they found was that it paralyzed people, because the truth is, feeling less than other people brings shame. It makes people turn away, disgusted with the system. Feeling better than other people, though now that is motivating. It motivates us to protect that position, and it has important consequences for our politics. To see why, again another experiment was considered.

In this experiment, the participants were asked to make decisions to earn some money, and one group was told that they had done better than average and the other group that they had done worse than average. And again, the better-than-average group said it’s a fair meritocracy, cut taxes on the wealthy, cut benefits on the poor. But this time, they also asked them what did they think about other participants who disagree with them on those issues. Are they smart or incompetent? Are they reasonable or are they biased? Answering to that the better-than-average group said anybody who disagrees with them must be incompetent, biased, blinded by self-interest. The below-average group didn’t assume that about their opponents. Lots of psychology studies showed the pattern that when people agree with us, we think they’re brilliant, and when people disagree with us, we tend to think they’re idiots. But this was new because they found it was driven entirely by the group that felt better than average, who felt entitled to dismiss those people who disagree with them.

Comparing to what he spoke earlier, he expressed about what this is doing to our politics, as the haves and have-nots spread further and further apart a lot of us think that people on the other side are idiots, but the people politically engaged enough to be yelling at each other about politics are actually mostly the well-off. In fact, as inequality has grown in recent decades, political interest and participation among the poor has plummeted. Again, we see that people who feel left behind aren’t taking to the streets to protest or organize voter registration drives. Often, they aren’t even voting. Instead, they’re turning away and dropping out. So if we want to do something about extreme inequality, we have to fix our politics. And if we want to fix our politics, we have to do something about inequality. So what do we do? The wonderful thing about spiralis that you can interrupt at any point in the cycle.

Keeping his perspective and thoughts straight he said “our best bet starts with those of us who have benefited the most from inequality’s rise, those of us who have done better than average. If you’ve been successful, it’s natural to chalk up your success to your own hard work. But, like the studies I showed you, everybody does that, whether or not it really was the hard work that mattered most. Every successful person I know can think of times when they worked hard and struggled to succeed. They can also think of times when they benefited from good luck or a helping hand but that part is harder.

Psychologists Shai Davidai and Tom Gilovich called it the “headwind-tailwind asymmetry. As a reminder he delivered “When you’re struggling against headwinds, those obstacles are all you can see. It’s what you notice and remember. But when the wind’s at your back and everything’s going your way, all you notice is yourself and our own amazing talents. So we have to stop and think for a minute to recognize those tailwinds helping us along. It’s so easy to see what’s wrong with people who disagree with you. Audience busted in laughter when he said some of the people(audience) decided that he was an idiot in the first two minutes, because he said that inequality was harmful.

To sum up it all, he highlighted that, the hard part is to recognize that if you were in a different position, you might see things differently ,just like the subjects in our experiments. He left off with a challenge saying “if you’re in the above-average group in life and if you’re watching a TED talk, you most likely are the next time you’re tempted to dismiss someone who disagrees with you as an idiot, think about the tailwinds that helped you get where you are. What lucky breaks did you get that might have turned out differently ? What helping hands are you grateful for? Recognizing those tailwinds gives us the humility we need to see that disagreeing with us doesn’t make people idiots. The real hard work is in finding common ground, because it’s the well-off who have the power and the responsibility to change things.” What wise words to end with.

This article is written by, Aiko Rana, one of the students in our writing workshop as part of the writing project. KMAG has been conducting Online Writing Workshop as per our mission of “producing writers, creating messengers.” You can learn more about the workshop HERE.

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Knowledge & Infos

What’s Special Today: November 10




Historically native to the Indian states of Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand and the southern part of Nepal, Chhath is one of those festivals that transcends the caste system that exists in the society. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on the sixth day of the lunar month of Kartik. The Chhath Puja is a 4-day long ritual specially offered to the solar deity, Surya, to show thankfulness for good health, good life and to request the granting of some certain wishes.

Day 1: On the first day, the devotees after bathing clean their house and eat the food that is offered to the god to protect the mind from the vengeful tendency.

Day 2: On the second day, the devotees are not allowed to drink even a single drop of water but, in the evening, they eat kheer made up of jaggery, fruits.

Day 3: The evening of the third day which is also known as sandhya ‘arghya’ day where a bamboo basket is decorated with various puja materials, fruits, thekuwa, and laddus which are offered as an ‘argya’ to the Sun. Also, the Chhathi Maiya is worshipped.

Day 4: On the last day of Chhath puja again an arghya is offered to the Sun God but this time in the morning. The devotees go to the riverbank to offer arghya to the rising sun and break their fast and conclude their four-day long worship.

Happy Chhath to everyone! Don’t forget to enjoy some thekuwas!!

World Keratoconus Day:

Every year on November 10, World Keratoconus Day is celebrated to focus global attention on keratoconus and ectatic corneal disorders. The day was first celebrated by National Keratoconus Foundation.

Keratoconus is a disease that causes the cornea to become weak, leading to the thinning and stretching of the cornea, which may result in the loss of vision. Keratoconus is degeneration of the structure of the cornea. The shape of the cornea slowly changes from the normal round shape to a cone shape which affects the vision. The keratoconus mainly develops in teenagers and young adults and the disease keeps on growing, if not diagnosed in time.  

The disease has no prevention and no treatment. With early diagnosis, the disease can be managed and further damage can be protected. In Nepal, the prevalence of Keratoconus is 1 in 2000 according to the recent journal. So, this world keratoconus day, make a commitment to visit an eye doctor once a year for the early diagnosis of keratoconus as well as other eye diseases.

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Knowledge & Infos

Best and Worst Bank in Nepal as per our survey



We had conducted an online survey to find out how banking services in Nepal are being used and perceived by their users. This article is entirely based on those responses. Thank you Muktinath Bikash Bank for supporting us in conducting this survey.  

Over the years, Banks have become an integral part of our daily life and economy. With the shift to digitalization and modernization of the economy, banks have definitely made life easier for people to manage their cash and transactions. With these shifts and increasing dependency on banks more than ever, the use of banking services and users’ banking experience is one of the topics with the minimal amount of research done. Out of curiosity, we conducted an online survey to find out how people have been feeling about the banking services provided by the respective banks.

About Respondents

Respondents were mostly urban educated youth with access to the internet, in the age bracket of 18-40, mostly being from 22-26 age group. The data was collected through social media users, primarily from page followers of KMAG. In total, we got 219 responses out of which 160 were males and 59 were females. 

In the list of questionnaires, one of the questions was “which is your favorite bank from Nepal as per your own experience,” and another being “which bank do you think is the worst.” Among 219, 27 respondents were undecided and 192 casted their votes for “best” and the “worst.” To build the conclusion on more strong foundation, we wanted to make sure respondents voice their opinion per their experience for which we had also asked them to reveal their primary bank.

Out of the total participants, a majority of 89.6% have multiple bank accounts though 19.5% of them just use one of those accounts. The remaining 10.4% claimed to have an only bank account. Out of all those banks, Nabil Bank is the primary bank for 36 participants (which was the highest no. of primary account holders in a particular bank). After Nabil, most of them were primary users of NIC Asia, Global IME, and Siddhartha Bank.

Nabil is voted as “Favorite Bank”

Nabil Bank seems to be the most favorite and popular among the respondents. With a total of 45 votes, it was voted the “most liked” bank. Among them, 29 were the primary account holders of the bank. Under “least liked,” it only got 4 votes.

To briefly talk about Nabil Bank, Nabil Bank is an ‘A’ class commercial bank which was founded in 1984 A.D. (2041 B.S.). It was established as Nepal’s first private sector bank incepted by multinational investors with the objective of providing modern, international-standard financial services. It was first established as Nepal Arab Bank Limited. In 1995, Dubai-government owned the majority of shares was bought by Binod Chaudhary.

NIC Asia is “least favourite”

With 76 votes for “worst bank,” NIC Asia seems like the “least liked” bank from Nepal as per the responses. Interestingly though, it has also been voted as “favorite bank” by 17 respondents.

After NIC Asia, Nepal Investment Bank seems like the second “least favorite” bank from Nepal with 23 votes against the bank.

On being asked the reason for disliking the bank, most of the participants seem to agree on the same point and that is “terrible” customer service of the bank. Similarly, other reasons were bad internet/mobile banking facilities, fraud-like business practices, and lack of important banking services/products being provided by the. Not to forget few were unhappy about the lack of branch/ATM services.

The detailed data are presented in the table below:

BanksPrimary AccountLikedDisliked
Nabil Bank36454
Global IME Bank251710
NIC Asia Bank291776
Siddhartha Bank16147
Sanima Bank13112
Laxmi Bank12101
Mega Bank10102
Standard Chartered Bank982
NMB Bank677
Bank of Kathmandu561
Machhapuchchhre Bank765
Himalayan Bank759
Sunrise Bank752
Muktinath Bikash Bank442
Century Commercial Bank330
Civil Bank433
Everest bank2310
Kamana Sewa Bikas Bank 131
Prabhu Bank Limited838
Rastriya Banijya Bank339
Agriculture Development Bank222
Citizens Bank 521
Kumari Bank321
Nepal Bangladesh Bank222
Nepal Bank325
Nepal Investment Bank15223
Garima Bikash Bank210
Nepal SBI Bank 2111
NCC Bank112
Prime Commercial Bank712
Manakamana Development Bank001
Shangri-la Development Bank100

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Knowledge & Infos

How to design a survey questionnaire

This article was originally designed for KMAG Online Writing Workshop and made available to public for knowledge-sharing purpose.




A survey is a list of questions aimed at extracting specific data from a particular group of people so that the surveyor can gain knowledge and insights into various topics of interest and then mostly generalize the result. How to design a survey questionnaire completely depends upon the purpose behind the survey. Depending on the purpose, questions are framed.

Let’s understand this way, surveyor seeks to know anything based on either of the following grounds:

  1. They don’t know anything, they are curious to find out, and they seek for answers. Example: I don’t know many people smoke and I want to find out by asking everyone out there.
  2. They think they know but they are not sure and they want to find out if what they think they know is actually true or false. Example: I think 50% of Nepalese do smoke but I am not sure yet and I want to validate my assumption by surveying.
  3. They strongly believe that what they know is the facts and now they want to interpret the world based on the “facts” they live by. Example: I strongly believe that smoking is bad and raising tax and making it expensive is the way to discourage people to smoke. I want to survey to find out how many Nepalese believe the same and agree with raising taxes and making it expensive would discouarge people to smoke.

Whatever grounds you are holding, you must frame your questionnaire according to that. So before working on the questionnaire ask yourself if you are trying to know the unknown or are you trying to validate or crosscheck what you think you know or you are trying to pass judgment or views based on your preset theory/hypothesis that your understanding is based upon.

This is how it goes:

You already have a theory and you want to analyze people based on the theory.

Let’s take for example “Job satisfaction Survey.” In this case, as per your theory/hypothesis, to be called “satisfied” one must be displaying so and so traits and views; if not, the person is not satisfied in his/her job. Based on that, you will be designing a questionnaire and see how many people meet the criteria to pass your judgment. If your theory says, highly satisfied people have flexible working hours, one of your questions will be something like “Can you come to your office at whatever time you want and can leave per your own wish as long as you are doing what you are paid for? Yes/No/Depends.” Likewise, there will be other questions set in a fashion to funnel your judgment regarding what percentage of people are satisfied with their job and work.

You have a theory or hypothesis that you want to validate or crosscheck

In this case, you have an assumption but you are not sure of and you want to crosscheck or validate by testing it on people. For example let’s say you think “Most arranged marriage people are unhappy,” and you want to validate your claim or crosscheck the truth in it by surveying among arranged marriage couples. Your questions will be something like “If you have to rate your marriage in terms of joy and happiness in it, how much will you rate on a 1 to 10 scale?” followed by questions like “if you have a time machine, would you go back right before the marriage and take your time to find out someone to have a love marriage? Yes/No/Maybe”

You don’t have any theory or hypothesis and you are only to find out unseen/unknown reality

In this case, you don’t have any preconceived thoughts or assumptions and you are plainly trying to learn or find out in an open-minded fashion.  Like for example, You don’t know how many educated youth from Nepal actually do smoke, nor you know why they smoke despite its negative effect and you are set out to find out the answer by surveying. In such surveys, your questions will be like “do you smoke? Yes/No. “If you smoke, how many cigarettes do you smoke per day?” “despite its negative effect, why do you still smoke?”etc.

Sometimes, you can have a mixed approach, wherein the topic of your interest that you are surveying on, part of it is something you strongly believe being fact, part of it is something you are unsure about, and part of it is something you don’t know a thing about and you are willing to learn.  Like for example, you strongly believe happy couples display so and so traits, and you think couples from love marriages are happier but you are not sure of, and you don’t know at all if personal happiness is valued more in marriage or responsibilities and social factors in the context of Nepal. So part of your questionnaires will be driven by your theory that you consider as being fact, part of it will be intended to cross-verify your assumption, and part of it will be purely seeking truth as it is without any deliberate attempt to frame your assumption.

Bottom line, you should know your ground, the purpose of surveying, what you intend to do afterward, based on which you should be working on your questionnaires.  Your questionnaires will be designed according to your intention, so there is no hard and fast rule but make sure, in the end, you gather all the relevant information so put together to build a conclusion and for that, you need to think about what all needs to be asked to fill up the blocks and connect the dots.

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