Weekly Review Issue No. 16
On intolerance for uncertainty and how it shapes your search for meaning; plus how death and shopping really do have a closer relationship than you might think.
Hello and welcome back to another Review. I hope you’ll at least one thing you find interesting, useful or enjoyable. If something particularly resonated, I’d love to know about it.
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What’s alive for me
I had one of those rare weeks when I was struck with a few very sharp jolts of live-wire elecitricty. Not literally, but figuratively. A few conversations, a workshop, and a hastily-scrawled comment on a printed and scanned diagram sent me into heaven. I can’t say more than that just now, but if anything its to communicate that I’m very excited about the prospect of uncovering something very novel in the way we can identify and understand how we relate to our mortality.
I’m also enjoying the rain - as much as its left me sodden and damp. I never usually relish the fact that its raining, but given last year’s summer I’m far more aware of just how important it is for our formerly damp Isle. If you find it annoying, I’ve found it useful to zoom out a bit and remember: we really do need it. Just don’t forget yer brolly.
Onto the links!
Research on the edges
Continuing to burrow into the meaning-making world, this paper explores the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty (IU) and the daily search for and presence of meaning in life. The research is based on the idea that uncertainty and the search for meaning are two factors that play a critical role in human psychology, and that individuals who experience high levels of IU may struggle with finding meaning in their lives.
Across all ages, theorists assert that people have an inherent need for meaning and strive to maintain their sense of meaning. However, people experience events and situations that challenge their understanding of themselves and the world around them. Heine and colleagues suggest that when people experience something that threatens their expectations of how things are supposed to be, they compensate by trying to regain a sense of meaning. When people experience a violation to their meaning framework, they may experience distress and recognize a need to resolve the incongruence by reaffirming alternative domains of meaning or by seeking new understanding(s).
This is a wild but entirely understandable hypothesis that the post-COVID economic inflation is in part driven by our anxieities of death. Really bring the idea of ‘shopping till you drop’ into a new light.
Faced with the transience of life, consumption can become a coping mechanism, as demonstrated post-COVID-19, and may manifest in impulse or revenge buying to overcome the fear of uncertainty. Studies have shown that COVID contributed to impulse-buying behaviour of fitness products in the US. Further, in the United Kingdom, fear and vulnerability during COVID led to impulse buying. In the Middle East, Egyptian consumers engaged in compulsive consumption while the nation underwent an economic depression amid the pandemic. It is evident that the pandemic sparked revenge buying, creating a vicious cycle of consumption.
Continuing the shopping and death theme. This is quite an incredble correlation they’re making here. That the rapid rise in ‘deaths of despair’ in the US can be located in the decline of religious attendence and belief, which itself has declined due to the changes in laws permitting commerical activity on a Sunday.
We also show that there is a strong negative relationship across states between religiosity and mortality due to deaths of despair. We further find that states that experienced larger declines in religious participation in the last 15 years of the century saw larger increases in deaths of despair. Both the decline in religiosity and the rise in deaths of despair were driven by the same group of individuals in the same places.
These patterns indicate that religiosity could be an important factor in the rise of deaths from suicides, poisonings, and liver disease. However, these patterns may not give a clear quantification of this relationship, as they leave open the possibility that another unobserved phenomenon is driving both religiosity and deaths of despair across states. In addition, despite the large literature on religiosity and health outcomes, we do not know of prior evidence showing that changes in religious participation affect relevant mortality outcomes for the specific cohorts of individuals that we consider: middle-aged Americans at the end of the 20th century.
We provide such evidence by looking at a policy-based shock to religiosity that prefaced the decline in religious practice: the repeal of blue laws. As first discussed in Gruber and Hungerman (2008), these laws regulated commerce at certain times of the week, often Sunday mornings. After a Supreme Court decision provided a test by which these laws could be found unconstitutional, many blue laws were repealed. These laws have been shown to be strongly related to religious practice, creating discrete changes in incentives to attend religious services that are plausibly unrelated to other drivers of religiosity.
Following several prior studies, we show that the repeal of these laws lowered religious participation. Then, using simple graphical analysis along with difference-in-difference spec- ifications, we find that repeal led to an increase in deaths of despair.
This has been on repeat all week since discovering it… somewhere. We live in a Golden Age of musical discovery. It’s never been easier to find almost life-changing music. I will admit I do miss the mp3 blogs of the late 2000s but at least I don’t have to essentially drag terrabytes of mp3s about the place.
This track by Eddie Harris, sound like it could’ve been made anytime in the last 40 years. It has a sonic quality that feels really contemporary, but his meandering guitar and sax feels very 70s.
I love a song that just takes its time.