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If you hate avocado-toast-loving, technology-addicted millennials, you might hate them for the wrong reasons.

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[♩INTRO ].

Whether or not you're a self-centered, avocado-toast-loving, technology-addicted millennial, you've definitely seen the headlines about them. It seems like every month brings some fresh woe: They can't stick to a job for more than a year!

They're all depressed. They'll never be able to afford homes because they're so busy brunching. If you're not a millennial, this might be a little concerning.

If you are a millennial, this is probably more than a little annoying. Because, honestly, the kids are pretty sure that the kids are all right. But there are some psychological ideas that could explain this intergenerational judge-fest.

Sociologists call this phenomenon juvenoia — an exaggerated fear about the influence of social change on young people. There is a term for it. And while clickbait headlines might be new, hand-wringing over the generation that's coming of age is anything but.

The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks thought their young people were rude and selfish. In 1240 CE, this preacher named Peter the Hermit complained that kids thought they were right about everything. In the 1950s, parents worried that comic books would corrupt their children.

And, at least when it comes to millenials, there's some good evidence that this paranoia is unfounded. There do seem to be generational differences, like: millennials are more highly educated, more likely to live with their parents, and more likely to have student debt than previous generations. But despite the stereotypes, they actually stay longer at their jobs than Gen Xers did at the same age.

Surveys show that they care about their work a lot and more are willing to stay overtime to get the job done. And if they scrape together the capital to form households of their own, millennials actually make fairly typical economic decisions. In fact, a lot of research has concluded that, while each new generation might like different music or clothes, their values are fundamentally similar to those of their parents.

So why is everyone so freaked out? The sociologist who coined the term “juvenoia” in 2011 had some suggestions. Evolutionary biology is one of them.

The basic idea is that it can be a good thing for animals to have alarm systems that are highly sensitive to threats to our offspring. The problem might be that the world has changed a lot since those systems evolved. So unfamiliar things in society could set off those alarms, too.

Like, you know, comic books, apparently. Another possible explanation is nostalgia, which biases us toward remembering the good stuff. Psychological research has shown that nostalgia is a universal experience that gets more common as we get older.

Generally, it's a good thing! Nostalgia can boost self-esteem and make people feel good about their lives. But it can also lead older people to imagine negative comparisons between the youth of today and their own childhood, that might get a little unrealistic or unnecessarily harsh. “Back in my day, we didn't need these fancy video based adventures, we had text games that like the ones that I played were like, “Pick up the stick”, and you pick up the stick, “Walk west” … and we loved it and they were fine!!

Here's the thing, though: according to most of the psychology research on generational differences, juvenoia may actually have more to do with perception than reality. Generational stereotypes, after all, are like any other kind of stereotypes. We form these categories as a kind of mental shortcut, and then lump in traits we've come to associate with each one.

Sometimes, this is helpful. Puppies are generally fluffy and cute, Serial killers are generally dangerous. The problem, of course, is that sometimes stereotypes are wrong.

A 2008 study of nearly 4,000 Australian professionals found that there were differences between generations, but they were often small… and usually not the ones that stereotypes would have predicted. Baby Boomers, for instance, were expected to be high-achieving, but they were actually the least focused on career advancement. Instead, the younger, quote-unquote “lazier” generations, I gesture to you, were the most driven.

Which kind of makes sense, because Baby Boomers are currently close to retirement and millennials are often just starting out. These findings led the researchers to suggest that these differences might be more about age and stage of life than generational cohort. Similarly, a 2012 study found that there were far fewer actual differences between generations than people from those generations perceived there being.

Our perceptions of generational differences also depend on the relationship and how old we are, something that's known as the developmental stake hypothesis or the intergenerational stake hypothesis. Studies have shown that parents are more invested in their relationships with their children than their children are. Researchers have suggested that this is because children are trying to establish their identities, whereas parents are more focused on trying to build a legacy.

But in one 2015 study of 633 participants, even though parents considered their relationships with their children more important, they also rated them more negatively. This could be because parents view their children as continuations of themselves. So they find it disrupting when the kids behave in ways different from how parents remember behaving.

It could also be because of how invested parents are in the relationship — any conflict can become a threat to the relationship, and make it feel more sour than that actually is. . But as the parent-child pair ages, the generational gap seems to shrink. One longitudinal study looked at families in 1971 and 1985.

And the researchers found that in 1985, family members reported closer relationships and fewer generational differences. Which, of course, makes you wonder whether the gap was ever there to begin with… or whether it had more to do with age and development. More research is needed to know for sure.

But in the meantime, cool it with the clickbait. There probably aren't as many differences between generations as we think there are. And either way, we could all benefit from a little more avocado toast.

Cuz it's really good. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych, and especially, thank you to our patrons on Patreon for supporting our staff who are almost entirely millennials. If you'd like to support those millennials who work very hard and I can attest to the fact that they will work over time to get the job done, you can go to, and if you just want to keep learning about brains with us, you can go to and subscribe. [♩OUTRO ].