NameÂ Matthew A. Andersson
AffiliationÂ The University of Iowa
Dissertation TitleÂ â€œApproach-Avoidance Sociology: Motivational Systems and Social Stratificationâ€�
ChairÂ Jennifer Glanville and Steven Hitlin (Co-Chairs)
Areas of SpecializationÂ Social Psychology, Social Stratification, Health, Emotion
Abstract for dissertation chapter (â€œMore than a Feeling: Emotional Well-Being and the Activation of Educationâ€�):
Having capital is not the same as using capital; capital can only improve life chances if it is activated. Previous research has pointed to structural and rational factors motivating activation. However, Weberâ€™s (1947) concept of â€œaffectual actionâ€� posits that â€œfeeling states,â€� which are not rational or goal-oriented, vary between actors and possess important motivational properties. Following this lead, I argue that emotional well-being represents a promising approach to understanding the nature and extent of capital activation, because people with greater well-being demonstrate flexibility, support and persistence during activation efforts. Using a representative panel sample of middle-aged adults (MIDUS RDD: 1995-2005), I find that two distinct components of emotional well-being â€“ the presence of positive emotion and the absence of negative emotion â€“ serve to activate education (human capital), leading to especially favorable gains in health, sense of control and voluntary social involvement. Moreover, an auxiliary fixed-effects analysis of activation (based on the MIDUS 1995 Identical Twins sample) yields activation effects even after controlling for early life-course factors such as genes and primary socialization. In total, I find that capital activation is a powerful source of social stratification that rivals the importance of capital itself.
Matt Anderssonâ€™s work has appeared inÂ Social Forces, Social Psychology Quarterly, Sociological Quarterly, Social Indicators Research, Stress and HealthÂ and other outlets.Â He researches personal well-being at the intersection of social psychology and social stratification. In a recent paper now under review (â€œMore than a Feeling: Emotional Well-Being and the Activation of Educationâ€�, 2013 ASA Social Psychology Graduate Paper Award), Andersson argues that emotional well-being represents a promising approach to understanding the nature and extent of the use of capital, what he refers to as capital activation.Â This paper demonstrates that capital activation is a stage of social stratification which rivals the importance of possessing capital in the first place, detailing how people with greater well-being demonstrate flexibility, support and persistence during activation efforts. Using a panel sample of middle-aged adults, as well as an auxiliary sample of identical twins, he finds that emotional well-being serves to activate education (a prime indicator of human capital), leading to especially favorable gains in health, sense of control and voluntary social involvement. Â Â This paper expands stratification theory by suggesting how individual orientations interact with capital to explain inequality.
Anderssonâ€™s general approach focuses on mechanisms, theories and methodological issues relevant to personal well-being. Before turning to sociology, Andersson had researched well-being from a clinical standpoint as an undergraduate, analyzing using an experimental design under what circumstances the disclosure of traumatic events leads to gains in physical well-being and renewed social connections (with Colleen Conley).Â Andersson retains his undergraduate interest in personal well-being, reflected across a range of sociological projects: examining how social connections shape and reflect trust in diverse others (with Jennifer Glanville and Pamela Paxton),Â how dispositional optimism shapes social network composition and buffers life setbacks durably; how parental warmth experienced during childhood conditionally shapes mental and physical health during adulthood; methodological design and contextual effects relevant to happiness (with Jennifer Glass and Robin Simon); the utility of vignette data for shedding light on mental illness stigmatization processes (with Sarah Harkness); and links between various indicators of personal well-being and the subjective experience of dignity (with Steve Hitlin).Â
Next year, Andersson will be finishing his dissertation, and working on an NSF-funded project creating a mixed-methods dataset on peer citation dynamics in sociology and medicine (with Freda Lynn and Michael Sauder). After finishing at Iowa, he aims to work at a research university