So when it comes time for a business to make cuts, the first people to go are the older workers, because hell, they're old, and no matter what science says, conventional wisdom says that young blood has more energy. The result is that older workers are hit hardest by the recession: They're more likely to lose their job and tend to stay unemployed for longer afterward, despite the fact that they are literally the most valuable people in the room.
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
"OK, new office hierarchy: Greg, Janice, the janitor, the coffee pot, and, last, Cue Ball over here."
Why? Because we have evolved to be afraid of old people. The elderly remind us of our own mortality, just like setting an alarm clock reminds us that we'll have to go to work in the morning. Human beings tend to be self-centered, you may have noticed, so when we see an old person, our first instinct isn't to wonder about their experience and wisdom but to be reminded of the fact that we're gonna get old, too. And no manager wants some creaky old people to be the face of the company. They want young, vibrant bodies in those cubicles! "Go stand inside the door at Walmart, Grandpa! Your 45 years of sales experience is of no use to this struggling economy!"
Hormones Drive the Stock Market (Always for the Worse)
Most people think of the stock market as a strange, almost supernatural entity controlled by under-the-table deals and secret psychopaths, and they're right. But it's even stupider than that: Men are ruining the economy with their stupid, stupid hormones.
We just figured the downturning economy was the fault of figurative dicks.
Like every other gambler, the people who work the market floor are slaves to their emotions: When things go well, their brains are flooded with testosterone, which makes them want to take more risks. When things go badly, their brains produce cortisol instead, which makes them less likely to take chances. The problem is, these things only "balance out" in the same way that stomping on your car's accelerator and brake at the same time will technically "keep it parked" -- over time, stock traders' brains burn out and they go nuts. And yes, there's a reason we said "men" up there -- it's significantly worse for males than females.
"Stock prices? Sir, this is a graph of your neurological chemistry."
What ends up happening is that these emotional responses (again, evolved specifically to fight tigers and stuff) can actually exacerbate economic problems. When the market starts to crash, traders' burned-out brains will be flooded with cortisol, which will make them overly cautious, which prevents change and makes the market keep crashing. Testosterone, meanwhile, exacerbates the market's upward momentum, causing reckless behavior and dumb risks that -- you guessed it -- also result in a crash.
"I'm on a roll this week! Let's roll the dice and see if Myspace makes a comeback!"
So again we find that the squishy gray hardware that runs human behavior just plain isn't up to the task of functioning in a 21st century economy. Has there ever been a better argument for handing our whole economy over to unfeeling robots? We can risk the whole Matrix thing.
J.F. Sargent is a Workshop moderator for Cracked who doesn't get paid for his Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.
Related Reading: Your silly brain probably believes some pretty hilarious myths about the economy. Did you think China was on the verge of owning our asses? Well you're wrong. Don't get too optimistic though. Our belief in hell has a HUGE impact on the world economy. It's enough to make you want to give up, trust Jack Balkin and mint some trillion dollar coins.