New project examines Danes' views on other people's lifestyles
How do we rank different lifestyles? And to what extent do we discriminate against others based on their taste and interests? A new research project funded by the ROCKWOOL Foundation will provide new answers to these questions.
When we talk about our latest golfing holiday in Italy, the techno concert enjoyed with friends, or the trip to an amusement park, this does not just say something about different interests. It also testifies to preferences and ways of living, which can have a major impact on how others perceive us.
A new research project funded by the ROCKWOOL Foundation maps Danes' views on lifestyle preferences and tests how we assess other people based on their lifestyle. Are we, for example, more likely to perceive the opera lover with a 'highbrow' lifestyle as smarter, more skilled and more successful than the neighbour with a taste for meat balls and country music?
"Discrimination on the grounds of race, gender and religion is familiar to most people. We would like to learn more about a type of discrimination that many people are probably less aware of," says Professor Mads Meier Jæger, who will lead the project over the next four years.
At the end of the day, the project is about identifying how and to what extent lifestyle discrimination creates economic and social inequality in society.
"It is important to be aware of how and to what extent we extract information about other people based on their lifestyle, because the lifestyle rarely gives a complete picture of a person's competences and personality. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to discrimination and greater inequality. One example: Qualified job applicants can be deselected if we consciously or unconsciously place great importance on how others choose to live.”
The hierarchy and social significance of lifestyles
Specifically, the project will identify and analyse views on lifestyles through two sub-studies:
- First, a representative survey will examine what status Danes attribute to a wide range of lifestyle domains such as food, leisure activities, music and other forms of culture. The aim is to rank and group lifestyle subgenres in a hierarchy, while at the same time examine the significance of variables such as the respondents' gender, age, place of residence, education etc.
- Second, survey experiments will be used in which participants are presented with descriptions of hypothetical individuals. The experiment manipulates information on lifestyle (e.g., highbrow vs. lowbrow), while holding constant other characteristics such as occupation, gender and age. Participants rate the hypothetical individual with regard to social rank and personal traits (e.g. whether the person is good at his/her job, trustworthy, respected or earns a lot), which makes it possible to estimate the effect of lifestyle on others’ perceptions.
In combination, the two sub-projects will provide new evidence on the impact of lifestyles on others’ perceptions and, ultimately, inequality. According to Mads Meier Jæger, this is important.
"In sociology, we have a strong tradition of describing different types of lifestyles and their subgenres. But we only know little about the causal links between the concrete forms of lifestyle, our perception of other people, and the extent to which it contributes to discrimination and inequality. The project addresses this limitation in the state of the art.”
Mads Meier Jæger
Professor, Department of Sociology
Phone: 35 32 32 84