With nicknames like “The Dumbest Generation” and the “Me Generation,” the discussion of the “Millennial Generation,” or those born from the early eighties to the early 2000’s, has attracted a lot of attention in recent years.
Psychology professor Gary Gregg’s intention was not to measure the more popular findings and conceptions of millennials. Instead, the study conducted over 5 years by Gregg and 14 Kalamazoo College research students sought to investigate the values and worldviews of young adults, and to analyze the componential theories of their belief systems.
Each in the diverse group of 60 participants, including 23 non-college participants, were subject to two to four hours of interview time, including questions on topics like political views, religious beliefs, and international issues. Brief life histories were also asked of them.
“We used open-ended study-of-lives interviews to see if we could learn more about how young adults are thinking about the world, and to study the psychological underpinnings of their beliefs,” Gregg said during the presentation.
An array of millennial opinions were yielded by the study, including the importance that they place on religious tolerance, or that 50-60% of them have political views did not lie on the conservative vs. liberal continuum.
The more important aspect of the study, however, did not have to do with the answers to questions posed, but to the lack of them.
“Our respondents’ great self-professed ignorance about global issues and regions, the economy, and social philosophies was a surprise,” Gregg explained. “We didn’t expect ‘expert’ knowledge, but we thought they’d be more informed or have fuller ideas, even if they weren’t very informed.”
Additionally, distress, in the form of poverty, neglect, violence, etc., made itself known to a surprising extent through the study. Particularly in the non-college group, Gregg and his researchers found that many voiced their experiences of distress not as political or social justice issues, but as existential or religious truths.
Gregg concluded with a thought on rights: “Our respondents so rarely thought in terms of rights. I really think that viewing the social order in terms of rights could significantly change moral outlooks and discussions.”