Friday, December 15, 2017

Behavior of millions still shaped by Industrial Revolution

Public Release: 14-Dec-2017
Behavior of millions still shaped by Industrial Revolution
Queensland University of Technology

The Industrial Revolution of 200 years ago, powered by coal and steam engines, laid the foundations of modern society. World-first QUT-led research has found its effects are still felt and not in a good way.

Industrial Revolution casts long shadow with former coal-mining and manufacturing communities in the UK the US still struggling

Coal-based industrial hubs in the UK and the US show a "hidden" psychological legacy today - a regional personality pattern characterised by traits associated with lower happiness, well-being and health (e.g., high Neuroticism, lower Conscientiousness, lower Extraversion)


They discovered that people living in the former industrial heartlands of the UK and the US are more disposed to negative emotions such as anxiety and depressive moods, more impulsive and more likely to struggle with planning and self-motivation.

"Our findings show that, generations after the white heat of Industrial Revolution and decades on from the decline of deep coal mining, the populations of areas where coal-based industries dominated in the 19th century retain a 'psychological adversity'," said QUT's Associate Professor Martin Obschonka from the Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research.


It is our belief that this generational unhappiness and dysfunction is the inherited product of selective migrations during mass industrialisation compounded by the social effects of severe work and living conditions," Professor Obschonka said.

"This damaging cognitive legacy of coal is "reinforced and amplified" by the more obvious economic consequences of high unemployment and economic hardship we see today."


While the researchers said there would be many factors behind the correlation between personality traits and historic industrialisation, the two most likely ones are migration and socialisation (learned behaviour).

"The people migrating into industrial areas were often doing so to find employment in the hope of escaping poverty and distressing situations of rural depression - those experiencing high levels of 'psychological adversity'," said Professor Obschonka.

"However, people that left these areas, often later on, were likely those with higher degrees of optimism and psychological resilience.

"This "selective influx and outflow" may have concentrated so-called 'negative' personality traits in industrial areas - traits that can be passed down generations through combinations of experience and genetics."


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