I often get sick of all the crap that parents feed their children these days in a society hell bent on inflating egos and self-esteem. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Car seats with the words, “I am very special,” printed on them. Mirrors with phrase, “You are looking at one of the most special people in the world,” plastered across its face. Trophies given out for coming in 10th place. I mean don’t get me wrong, my hypothetical future children will be loved and praised, but damn it, they’re going to earn their victories and learn that success is earned.
Ask any teacher or dormitory advisor and they’ll be quick to tell you the result of all this nonsense. The millennial generation has a sense of entitlement and expectation of unearned rewards that I hope to God was absent from the previous ones (including mine!) Case in point, it seems that college kids today value ego boosts more than food, money, friends and even sex.
In a study recently published in the Journal of Personality, Brad Bushman from the Ohio State University gauged just how much nearly 300 college students valued a little ego boost. He asked them to complete a survey designed to measure how much they “wanted” and how much they “liked” receiving a paycheck, seeing a best friend, having sexual relations, getting an alcoholic beverage and receiving a self-esteem boost. After controlling for how recently they had received each of these things, the results clearly showed that today’s underclassmen value their self-esteem much more than any of these other pleasure-inducing options.
It may seem odd to measure wanting something versus liking it, but it is a way to gauge whether or not something is addictive. For example, habitual drug users may really want their fix of heroin, but because they wind up sleeping in a puddle of their own piss, they might not actually like it. Though the tests didn’t show that the participants wanted an ego boost more than they would enjoy one, the gap between the two was much smaller than any of the other options.
So while the girl with “Princess” stamped across her ass probably isn’t addicted to ego boosts yet, but that day isn’t far away. It makes you proud to be an American, does it not?
While I can see where these results could be true and I’m readily able to believe them, I question the methods. I feel that when you ask someone how much they want or like something, you might get a different response than if that something is sitting right there. I don’t know if there’s a way to offer a choice between an ego boost and a sexual encounter, at least ethically in a research setting, but I’d be interested to see which option would win out in a real situational competition of choice.