The bright side of pessimism: Promoting wealth redistribution under (felt) economic hardship

Silvia Galdi, Anne Maass, Annalisa Robbiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Economic inequality is a collective issue that affects all citizens. However, people often fail to support redistribution strategies aimed at redressing inequality. In this work we investigated personal optimism and collective pessimism as psychological processes that contribute to hampering vs. promoting the demand for redistribution. Our prediction was that support for redistribution would require both a pessimistic economic outlook at the collective level and the perception of being economically disadvantaged. In two studies, one of which pre-registered, Italian participants (Study 1: N = 306; Study 2: N = 384) were led to feel relatively poor or rich, rated their perceived control over either their personal or the nation's future and estimated either personal or national economic and general future risks. To measure support for redistribution, participants were invited to allocate their desired level of taxation to each of the five tax brackets included in the Italian personal income tax. Results showed that participants were optimistic about their personal future, but pessimistic about the fate of their nation. This difference was explained by respondents' greater perceived control over personal future than over the nation's future. Importantly, greater pessimism about national economic risks led to greater support for progressive taxation only for participants who felt relatively poor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0243486
JournalPloS one
Issue number12 December
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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