30 Mar 2010
Kate Picket, epidemiologist and co-author of, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, shares her well researched knowledge about this important question.
According to Picket: "We've lived in every kind of society. For a lot of our existence as human beings, we've lived in fairly egalitarian hunter gatherer societies. But we've also lived in very hierarchical tyrannies as well. So we clearly can manage to exist in both and develop all kinds of different societies.
Why hierarchy seems to matter - why status differences matter so much and so the gap between rich and poor matters - is because us human beings are very sensitive to human relationships.
We have an evolved psychology that makes us very aware of how others judge us. If you think about it, some of the most difficult things to do or the most potentially embarrassing situations we're in are those where other people can judge us negatively.
Rather like what I am doing now, which might go out and be seen by hopefully thousands of people and they might think I'm doing a good job or a bad job and being aware of that can make us feel very embarrassed, be very aware of how others judge us -- and that really affects our psychology and our biology in very profound ways.
So if we're looking at societies where the social distances between people are bigger, as they are in more unequal societies, there's just more potential for all of us to feel that we're judged negatively by others and to feel that our status really matters; that its really important."