Entitlement is defined as “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment”. The lead author of a new study on the effects of entitlement, Joshua Grubbs, assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, considers it simply “a desire to get something for nothing”, and the belief held by a person that they are an exception to the rule in a very exaggerated way.
Grubbs conducted a review of over 170 students on the subject of entitlement while he was a graduate student in psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Through the study, he found that people with attitudes of entitlement are very susceptible to disappointment, and that disappointment very often leads to anger, blame, social tension and depression.
The attitude itself does not stem from the possession of wealth, as many believe, but from many different factors including culture, economic status, and upbringing. Helped by co-author Julie Exline, a professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve, Grubbs dove into the data to find out why entitlement can be such an issue.
An interesting pattern of behavior was discovered by their research. “First, there’s the burden of living with the constant threat of failed expectations. Next comes emotional instability when an expected path or goal fails to materialize”, Grubbs explained. These individuals are then spurred on by the increase of adversity to rely even more heavily on their sense of superiority- their deserving attitude being strengthened rather than weakened, which only causes the cycle to start over again. This then goes beyond the individual and puts the strain on society.
Sometimes, a person may have no idea that they have a sense of entitlement in a certain situation, or even in general. It is a deep, underlying belief of which we can actually not be aware, that can be so visible to others, but invisible to ourselves. It is important for us as a society to try to detect these ideas that we may unknowingly hold, as they can be toxic to our love life, family life, social life, and work life- all of which combined make up the constructs of our society.
To apply this research to real life, we can look at the outcome of certain happenings and events in our lives, and evaluate our emotional response to them. If the response was unhappy, disappointed, or bitter, we should then go back and examine how we truly felt prior to the outcome, and figure out if we may have originally had any kind of entitled attitude toward the outcome of those events.
Grubbs explains that ambition is different from entitlement, and that he is not at all opposing a healthy drive for success. But despite his grim findings, he says that getting rid of an entitled attitude is indeed achievable and can be accomplished with introspection and “active gratitude”, which is, Grubbs explains, “actually taking time to reflect about how much you are grateful for, how much others have helped you become what you are, and the ways you can express that gratitude.”