When in Rome

Kevin Lewis

February 07, 2012

Globalization, Culture Wars, and Attitudes toward Soccer in America: An Empirical Assessment of How Soccer Explains the World

Andrew Lindner & Daniel Hawkins
Sociological Quarterly, Winter 2012, Pages 68-91

This study examines the "culture wars" using the lens of attitudes toward soccer. Despite soccer's increasing popularity in the United States, anti-soccer rhetoric is fairly common. In his widely read book, How Soccer Explains the World (2004), Foer contends that the "culture wars," including divisions over soccer, are better explained by reactions to globalization than social class or political ideology. Using data from a survey of Nebraskans, we find that attitudes about cultural globalization are the best predictor of soccer sentiment. Contrary to popular claims about the "culture wars," most respondents were moderate in their attitudes toward both soccer and globalization.


Beware of national symbols: How flags can threaten intergroup relations

Julia Becker et al.
Social Psychology, Winter 2012, Pages 3-6

The present research examined effects of exposure to the German flag on outgroup prejudice in Germany. In agreement with social identity theory, we demonstrated that exposure to the German flag increased outgroup prejudice among highly nationalistic German respondents. This finding seems to contradict prior research illustrating that exposure to the US flag reduced outgroup prejudice among highly nationalistic American respondents. This contradiction is considered the result of various concepts Germans associate with the German flag compared to concepts Americans associate with the US flag. Practical implications for flag exposure are discussed.


Geography of Twitter networks

Yuri Takhteyev, Anatoliy Gruzd & Barry Wellman
Social Networks, January 2012, Pages 73-81

The paper examines the influence of geographic distance, national boundaries, language, and frequency of air travel on the formation of social ties on Twitter, a popular micro-blogging website. Based on a large sample of publicly available Twitter data, our study shows that a substantial share of ties lies within the same metropolitan region, and that between regional clusters, distance, national borders and language differences all predict Twitter ties. We find that the frequency of airline flights between the two parties is the best predictor of Twitter ties. This highlights the importance of looking at pre-existing ties between places and people.


Culture, Control, and Illusory Pattern Perception

Cynthia Wang, Jennifer Whitson & Tanya Menon
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Lacking control causes illusory pattern perception, but does culture influence the patterns people perceive? Different cultural contexts invite distinct types of control, with people from Western cultures emphasizing primary control methods (i.e., personal agency) and people from East Asian cultures emphasizing secondary control methods (i.e., adjustment to surroundings). Four experiments suggest that cultural differences in primary versus secondary control orientation shape the patterns people perceive within horoscopes. When lacking (vs. possessing) control, Westerners are relatively more likely to rely on horoscopes that help them understand themselves, whereas East Asians are relatively more likely to rely on horoscopes that help them understand others. The authors isolate underlying mechanisms, demonstrating that, following loss of control, people high on primary control rely on self-focused horoscopes and people high on secondary control rely on horoscopes about friends. Thus, cultural differences in primary versus secondary control create unique signatures in pattern perception.


Suicide, Culture, and Society from a Cross-National Perspective

Matteo Lenzi, Erminia Colucci & Harry Minas
Cross-Cultural Research, February 2012, Pages 50-71

In this article, the authors explored the associations between suicide rates and a large number of sociocultural indexes, within the sociological framework provided by Durkheim and taking into account recent sociological theories. The analyses were performed on a sample of 87 nations and a subsample of posttraditional societies. The authors found strong positive (linear) correlations between suicide rates and measures of secularization, and curvilinear relationships between measures of individualization and suicide rates. Negative associations were found between suicide rates and measures of individualization in a subsample of posttraditional countries. Following the postmodernization and reflexive modernization theories, the authors argue that a new form of individualization is in place in secular-rational societies. This form of individualization exercises a negative effect on suicide rates through its positive influence on social integration and regulation.


Culture and the distinctiveness motive: Constructing identity in individualistic and collectivistic contexts

Maja Becker et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

The motive to attain a distinctive identity is sometimes thought to be stronger in, or even specific to, those socialized into individualistic cultures. Using data from 4,751 participants in 21 cultural groups (18 nations and 3 regions), we tested this prediction against our alternative view that culture would moderate the ways in which people achieve feelings of distinctiveness, rather than influence the strength of their motivation to do so. We measured the distinctiveness motive using an indirect technique to avoid cultural response biases. Analyses showed that the distinctiveness motive was not weaker - and, if anything, was stronger - in more collectivistic nations. However, individualism-collectivism was found to moderate the ways in which feelings of distinctiveness were constructed: Distinctiveness was associated more closely with difference and separateness in more individualistic cultures and was associated more closely with social position in more collectivistic cultures. Multilevel analysis confirmed that it is the prevailing beliefs and values in an individual's context, rather than the individual's own beliefs and values, that account for these differences.


Foreign Corporations and the Culture of Transparency: Evidence from Russian Administrative Data

Serguey Braguinsky & Sergey Mityakov
NBER Working Paper, January 2012

Foreign-owned firms from advanced countries carry the culture of transparency in business transactions that is orthogonal to the culture of hiding and insider dealing in many developing economies and economies in transition. In this paper, we document this using administrative data on reported earnings and market values of cars owned by workers employed in foreign-owned and domestic firms in Moscow, Russia. We examine whether closer ties to foreign corporations result in the diffusion of transparency to private Russian firms. We find that Russian firms initially founded in partnerships with foreign corporations are twice as transparent in reported earnings of their workers as other Russian firms, but they are still less than half as transparent as foreign firms themselves. We also find that increased links to foreign corporations, such as hiring more workers from them, raise the transparency of domestic firms. An important channel for this transmission appears to be the need to keep official wages and salaries of incumbent workers close to wages domestic firms have to pay to their newly hired workers with experience in multinationals.


The neural basis of cultural differences in delay discounting

Bokyung Kim, Young Shin Sung & Samuel McClure
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 5 March 2012, Pages 650-656

People generally prefer to receive rewarding outcomes sooner rather than later. Such preferences result from delay discounting, or the process by which outcomes are devalued for the expected delay until their receipt. We investigated cultural differences in delay discounting by contrasting behaviour and brain activity in separate cohorts of Western (American) and Eastern (Korean) subjects. Consistent with previous reports, we find a dramatic difference in discounting behaviour, with Americans displaying much greater present bias and elevated discount rates. Recent neuroimaging findings suggest that differences in discounting may arise from differential involvement of either brain reward areas or regions in the prefrontal and parietal cortices associated with cognitive control. We find that the ventral striatum is more greatly recruited in Americans relative to Koreans when discounting future rewards, but there is no difference in prefrontal or parietal activity. This suggests that a cultural difference in emotional responsivity underlies the observed behavioural effect. We discuss the implications of this research for strategic interrelations between Easterners and Westerners.


A Processing Advantage Associated With Analytic Perceptual Tendencies: European Americans Outperform Asians on Multiple Object Tracking

Krishna Savani & Hazel Rose Markus
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Analytic visual processing and holistic visual processing have been conceptualized in terms of attention to focal objects vs. the background. We expand the study of perceptual biases associated with these attentional patterns using the multiple object tracking task, which measures people's ability to track multiple moving target objects amidst otherwise identical distractors. We test two competing hypotheses: (1) Asians' more frequent eye saccades will enable them to quickly cycle through the multiple target objects before the objects move too far away, giving them another perceptual advantage; and (2) European Americans' tendency to focus attention on the focal objects while inhibiting attention to less important objects might facilitate tracking of multiple moving objects. We find that European Americans significantly outperform Asians on multiple object tracking. The research expands the conceptualization of analytic processing and holistic processing to include selective attention as a key component, a facet has not been previously identified.


A Longitudinal-Experimental Test of the Panculturality of Self-Enhancement: Self-Enhancement Promotes Psychological Well-Being both in the West and the East

Erin O'Mara et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

Intensely debated is whether the self-enhancement motive is culturally relative or universal. The universalist perspective predicts that satisfaction of the motive panculturally promotes psychological well-being. The relativistic perspective predicts that such promotive effects are restricted to Western culture. A longitudinal-randomized-experiment conducted in China and the US tested the competing predictions. Participants completed measures of psychological well-being in an initial session. A week later participants listed a personally important attribute, described (via random assignment) how that attribute is more (self-enhancement) or less (self-effacement) descriptive of self than others, and again reported their psychological well-being. Consistent with the universalist perspective, self-enhancement significantly increased psychological well-being from baseline in the US and China; self-effacement yielded no change in psychological well-being in either culture.


Emotion experience and regulation in China and the United States: How do culture and gender shape emotion responding?

Elizabeth Davis et al.
International Journal of Psychology, forthcoming

Culture and gender shape emotion experience and regulation, in part because the value placed on emotions and the manner of their expression is thought to vary across these groups. This study tested the hypothesis that culture and gender would interact to predict people's emotion responding (emotion intensity and regulatory strategies). Chinese (n = 220; 52% female) and American undergraduates (n = 241; 62% female) viewed photos intended to elicit negative emotions after receiving instructions to either "just feel" any emotions that arose (Just Feel), or to "do something" so that they would not experience any emotion while viewing the photos (Regulate). All participants then rated the intensity of their experienced emotions and described any emotion-regulation strategies that they used while viewing the photos. Consistent with predictions, culture and gender interacted with experimental condition to predict intensity: Chinese men reported relatively low levels of emotion, whereas American women reported relatively high levels of emotion. Disengagement strategies (especially distancing) were related to lower emotional intensity and were reported most often by Chinese men. Taken together, findings suggest that emotion-regulation strategies may contribute to differences in emotional experience across Western and East Asian cultures.


Dynamic Cultural Modulation of Neural Responses to One's Own and Friend's Faces

Jie Sui et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Long-term cultural experiences influence neural response to one's own and friend's faces. The present study investigated whether an individual's culturally-specific pattern of neural activity to faces can be modulated by temporary access to other cultural frameworks using a self-construal priming paradigm. Event-related potentials were recorded from British and Chinese adults during judgments of orientations of one's own and friend's faces after they were primed with independent and interdependent self-construals. We found that an early frontal negative activity at 220-340 ms (the anterior N2) differentiated between one's own and friend's faces in both cultural groups. Most remarkably, for British participants, priming an interdependent self-construal reduced the default anterior N2 to their own faces. For Chinese participants, however, priming an independent self-construal suppressed the default anterior N2 to their friend's faces. These findings indicate fast modulations of culturally-specific neural responses induced by temporary access to other cultural frameworks.


Values, trust and democracy in Germany: Still in search of ‘inner unity'?

Ross Campbell
European Journal of Political Research, forthcoming

Twenty years after German reunification, surveys have persistently uncovered differences in political trust between the eastern and western parts of the country. Studies have offered disintegrated and inconclusive assessments of the cross-regional variation. This variation is traced to a tenacious, retrospective sympathy for socialism steeped in political socialisation and experiential learning. Empirical analyses confirm the presence of two key effects. First, retrospective evaluations of socialism not only fuel popular distrust of political institutions, but are more strongly correlated with trust in the east. Second, East-West evaluations of socialism are sufficiently different to contribute towards explaining the contrasting levels of trust between the two regions. That socialist values constitute a core axis upon which East German attitudes pivot presents a challenge for nurturing trust in democratic institutions and renews attention to processes through which supportive attitudes to democracy are acquired in transitional countries.


Reconciling long-term cultural diversity and short-term collective social behavior

Luca Valori et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 24 January 2012, Pages 1068-1073

An outstanding open problem is whether collective social phenomena occurring over short timescales can systematically reduce cultural heterogeneity in the long run, and whether offline and online human interactions contribute differently to the process. Theoretical models suggest that short-term collective behavior and long-term cultural diversity are mutually excluding, since they require very different levels of social influence. The latter jointly depends on two factors: the topology of the underlying social network and the overlap between individuals in multidimensional cultural space. However, while the empirical properties of social networks are intensively studied, little is known about the large-scale organization of real societies in cultural space, so that random input specifications are necessarily used in models. Here we use a large dataset to perform a high-dimensional analysis of the scientific beliefs of thousands of Europeans. We find that interopinion correlations determine a nontrivial ultrametric hierarchy of individuals in cultural space. When empirical data are used as inputs in models, ultrametricity has strong and counterintuitive effects. On short timescales, it facilitates a symmetry-breaking phase transition triggering coordinated social behavior. On long timescales, it suppresses cultural convergence by restricting it within disjoint groups. Moreover, ultrametricity implies that these results are surprisingly robust to modifications of the dynamical rules considered. Thus the empirical distribution of individuals in cultural space appears to systematically optimize the coexistence of short-term collective behavior and long-term cultural diversity, which can be realized simultaneously for the same moderate level of mutual influence in a diverse range of online and offline settings.


Personality, Nations, and Innovation: Relationships Between Personality Traits and National Innovation Scores

Daniel Steel, Tiffany Rinne & John Fairweather
Cross-Cultural Research, February 2012, Pages 3-30

Research has shown relationships between personality factors and innovation at the level of the individual person. Recently, data have become available that would allow testing of these relationships at the nation-state level. Based on theoretical aspects of the Big Five factors of personality, and on empirical work conducted using individuals as the unit of analysis, the authors hypothesize that mean national scores of Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness would be related to national innovation scores. Multinational data on mean national scores of the Big Five Inventory and the NEO-PI-R are compared to national-level innovation input and output scores from the International Innovation Index and the Global Innovation Index. On both indices, the results of the analyses using the NEO-PI-R show strong, positive relationships between Openness to Experience and both aspects of innovation, a strong positive relationship between Agreeableness and innovation inputs and no relationships between Conscientiousness and either innovation inputs or outputs. The analyses using the Big Five Inventory data shows no reliable relationship between national-level personality and national innovation scores. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for what one can learn from national-level studies of personality and innovation. Suggestions are offered to those governments and financial institutions interested in encouraging economic growth via innovation.

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