Y'all Got It Wrong: Neuroscience Shows Millennials Aren't Selfish

What comes to mind when you think of Millennials? If we are to believe what we read, we're looking at a generation of lazy, selfish, entitled and image-obsessed 18–30 year olds, more intent on eating smashed avo and showing it off on Instagram than, well, anything else.

Now science is aiming to smash that stigma, and this first-of-it's-kind experiment has shown those headlines have it all wrong.

The "Millennials Demystified" experiment was undertaken by staff at the University of New South Wales and funded by Mastercard.

"We set out to better understand what millenials are really thinking, as opposed to what they thought we wanted to hear. What our investigation showed was a that this group responded with high levels of emotion to questions that had a positive societal impact," revealed Dr Jacqueline Rushby, research fellow at UNSW, "suggesting that millenials are much more selfless and straightforward than their stereotype suggests."

The research was conducted using a 16-point contact electroencephalograph headset. It monitored participants' brainwave activity and physical reactions - like eye movements.

Still think that the youngins are craving blue algae lattes, avo toast, a million social media followers, world travel, #foodporn moments, selfies and well, social media fame in general?

Turns out they'd rather have a cuppa with Mum, give food to someone in need, rasie a million dollars for charity, make positive change for the planet, have self-confidence, volunteer at a soup kitchen and do more selfless acts instead.

They'd probably just want to have a planet that's not being destroyed, a stable job market and a glimmer of hope for home ownership, too. Just sayin'.

"There were certainly some 'duh' moments [in the experiement]," millennial comedian and experiment participant, Rhys Nicholson said, "but I guess that’s the point. Other generations think we’re living this insane, self-obsessed, phone coddling life but, really, we’re not."

"I have absolutely no interest in what a blue algae latte is, but I’d definitely be up for bonuses like chips with my burger to share with my friends. Come to think of it, if I had an algae latte I'd imagine I wouldn't have any friends."

Lazy Millennials Aren't Even Banging That Much

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all millennials* are lazy, that they are endowed by their Creator Snapchat with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Likes, Listicles and the pursuit of Intercourse.

Read more

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


Comments

    What comes to mind when you think of Millennials?

    A million articles talking about millennials as if they are some new species or undiscovered tribe.

    "We set out to better understand what millenials are really thinking, as opposed to what they thought we wanted to hear. What our investigation showed was a that this group responded with high levels of emotion to questions that had a positive societal impact,"

    You can be generous just by thinking things? So if I feel emotional about charity, in millennial speak, this is known as doing charity. Jesus. Being generous used to mean, for example, donating time or money to charity.

    Turns out they'd rather have a cuppa with Mum, give food to someone in need, rasie a million dollars for charity, make positive change for the planet, have self-confidence, volunteer at a soup kitchen and do more selfless acts instead.

    Yes but I'd much rather be on holiday right now. Does this mean that I am vacationing?

    Thinking about doing selfless acts is not itself a selfless act. Thinking about volunteering at a soup kitchen is not an act of generosity. It's not an act at all. It's a thought.

    The title would be accurate if the research found that, on average, millennials spend x amount of their weeks doing charity / volunteering etc. It would be more accurate if the data show that millennials on average donate x% of their income to charity. Then you could say that we've got it wrong and that they are more selfless and generous than we thought.

    But what the data actually show are that millennials are as self-absorbed as we suspected.

      But what the data actually show are that millennials are as self-absorbed as we suspected. There is no data that supports your thesis in any meaningful way. Neither of the two pertinent data sets, the census and GSS, contain the granularity to support your claim, nor do they provide the breadth of investigation required to form a robust argument on the matter. For example, the census purview on voluntary work is limited in scope to formal volunteering and does not at all inspect the myriad of informal volunteering.

      Both the original piece and this article are clear that the subject is the thoughts of a generation versus the stereotypes that have been formed; we're looking at ascertaining the socially conscious ideals of a group maligned for purportedly not giving a shit about anything but themselves.

      Your hollow and mean-spirited reassertion of the same baseless headlines we have seen for years is unwarranted and an unnecessary distraction.

        Yeah so when there’s overwhelmig evidence that younger people are insular and self absorbed it’s all not true because they think about doing good. Lol... it’s not mean to say that selflessness requires action, not thought. Now go do some charity or something.

    I'm a bit uncomfortable with the way a marketing campaign is being reported on as a useful tool to change public perceptions of the millennial generation.

    Mastercard have previously expressed intent to expand their business among millennials by better tailoring their products to align with purported socially conscious ideals. To do that they need to gain insight into what millennials value. Now we have a video to that end, released on the same day that Mastercard launch a new program with millennials in mind. The whole thing stinks of something mean and rotten.

    This isn't a production to show the worth of millennials to society, it's yet another commodification of their lives.

    written and posted by "hope you are not lighthearted"
    ...
    ...
    ...
    a millennial "who saw that coming"

    "Millennial" here.
    I just don't buy the generalization, and I can't imagine anyone truly believes that ALL young people are "lazy, selfish, entitled and image-obsessed ... craving blue algae lattes, avo toast, a million social media followers, world travel, #foodporn moments, selfies and... social media fame".
    I'm sure there are many who fit some of these descriptions, and many who don't, and many in between.
    I'm also sure that this applies to people in any generation.
    I do think that as people grow up they learn to be better people (even if only slightly), and this has been true for eternity.

    I consider myself lazy even though I just got home from a 14 hour slog of physical labor for work (the boss is a good guy and he was working late with me), because when I'm home I pretty much just veg watching dumb tv shows and playing pointless videogames instead of writing music or continuing learning to ride my unicycle which I haven't touched in about 5 months even though I was starting to get the hang of it, or practicing my Japanese.
    I consider myself selfish even though I spend about 3hrs a week in voluntary service, because to survive in this world you have to be at least a little bit selfish, it's just unavoidable.
    I don't feel entitled, hence why I work hard and expect to never own a house, and I don't have any Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever garbage (like a registered account with gizmodo/kotaku :P).
    I don't like hashtags or 'foodporn', I don't like going to restaurants because I prefer being at home and saving money, but I do cook for myself and quite well. I take pics sometimes when I make something new and show it to anyone who asks (in person).
    I hate coffee and milk but I do like avocado on occasion.
    My 'millennial' friends are similar to me in different ways, all decent people, some struggling to get by, others doing fine in life.
    I also have known several garbage people of my age, but I imagine they have matured like I have.
    *SELF-OBSESSED SELF DESCRIPTION OVER*

    I feel like this whole 'millennial' thing in the media comes from maturing journalists feeling out of touch with their own youth, looking at what young people today are doing (probably from other media reports) and comparing it to themselves at their current state, or otherwise comparing with a bias.
    I may be wrong.
    The internet and social media certainly does skew perceptions, too.
    I feel like future 'millennial' journalists will likely do the same anyway.
    We're all only human.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now