Conventional wisdom often suggests that what shapes our worldview is significantly impacted by our background. Specifically, it’s a common assumption that privilege, encompassing factors like socioeconomic status, health, and safety, heavily influences one’s perspective of the world.
However, recent research from the University of Pennsylvania challenges this notion, revealing surprising insights about the relationship between privilege and a positive worldview.
Unraveling Assumptions about What Shapes Our Worldview
This intriguing study, conducted by The Primals Project at Penn’s Positive Psychology Center, looked into primal world beliefs (or “primals”). Primals are fundamental beliefs about the world, such as viewing it as progressing or declining, harmless or threatening, interesting or boring.
Contrary to expectations, the study found that positive primals were not strong indicators of a privileged background.
Methodology and Results
Researchers surveyed over 14,000 individuals, examining their agreement with statements like “Life overflows with opportunity and abundance” and “The world is going downhill.” They also asked laypeople and psychology researchers to predict how different groups would respond based on their socioeconomic status, neighborhood safety, and other factors.
The predicted correlation between privilege and positive worldviews was significantly higher than the actual survey results. This disconnect suggests that positive worldviews may not be as closely tied to privilege as previously thought.
Shifting Perspectives on Trauma and Privilege
The study’s findings indicate that experiencing hardship or adversity doesn’t necessarily result in a negative view of the world.
For example, patients with cystic fibrosis showed a slightly more positive worldview compared to controls. This counters the narrative that those facing significant challenges are destined to view the world negatively.
Interestingly, the study found that women were slightly more likely to view the world as safe, defying the conventional assumption that women perceive the world as more dangerous due to societal and safety concerns.
The University of Pennsylvania’s study opens up new avenues for research. Teams are exploring genetic components and other factors that might influence one’s primal beliefs. With numerous independent research efforts underway, there’s a growing interest in understanding the origins and impacts of these fundamental worldviews.