In this project, Asst Prof Chen seeks to elucidate when and how people experience socio-economic inequality (SEI) in their daily life, which will consequently enable policy makers to design effective interventions that will eradicate social class barriers, create meaningful interactions across classes, and build cohesive communities.
Despite voluminous research on SEI, it remains unclear how often and when thoughts and feelings about it occupy people’s consciousness during their everyday life. Which contexts or interactions in one’s environment are more likely to trigger such thoughts and feelings? Importantly, are these thoughts and feelings maladaptive? If they are, what are some interventions that can help alleviate these outcomes?
Asst Prof Chen aims to address these questions using multi-methods in psychology. In the first phase, she intends to use the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to systematically investigate the frequency of people’s perceptions of inequality in their everyday environment. Data collected will help identify environmental contexts or situations that may heighten perceptions of inequality and/or amplify negative responses.
The second phase of the project will investigate people’s experiences of SEI specifically in organizational settings. Drawing on findings from ESM, Asst Prof Chen will use the survey methodology typically used in organizational field studies to understand full-time employees’ experiences of inequality in their workplace. Findings will be used to design interventions that would mitigate negative experiences of inequality in organizations and test these interventions using randomized controlled trials in companies.
Finally, the goal of the third phase of the project is to extrapolate findings from the investigation of SEI in people’s daily lives and the workplace to the broader public context. Interventions that have been shown to be effective in organizational settings will be tested using experiments in more controlled lab settings or field settings.
The proposed project would address gaps in the literature concerning how SEI is experienced in people’s natural environments and how it truly impacts their well-being. It would provide a richer understanding of the complex relationship between inequality and wellbeing and its multiple underlying psychological mechanisms, and lend external validity to these findings. Insights and interventions from this research can help policymakers shape more contextualised policies to tackle SEI only where and when needed.