Cultural Legacy

Kevin Lewis

March 17, 2022

Historical Border Changes, State Building, and Contemporary Trust in Europe
Scott Abramson, David Carter & Luwei Ying
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Political borders profoundly influence outcomes central to international politics. Accordingly, a growing literature shows that historical boundaries affect important macro-outcomes such as patterns of interstate disputes and trade. To explain these findings, existing theories posit that borders have persistent effects on individual-level behavior, but the literature lacks empirical evidence of such effects. Combining spatial data on centuries of border changes in Europe with a wide range of contemporary survey evidence, we show that historical border changes have persistent effects on two of the most politically significant aspects of behavior: individuals’ political and social trust. We demonstrate that in areas where borders frequently changed, individuals are, on average, less trusting of others as well as their governments. We argue that this occurs because border changes disrupt historical state-building processes and limit the formation of interpersonal social networks, which leads to lower levels of trust. 

The spatial representation of leadership depends on ecological threat: A replication and extension of Menon et al. (2010)
Eftychia Stamkou et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Since humanity’s first steps, individuals have used nonverbal cues to communicate and infer leadership, such as walking ahead of others. Menon et al., (2010) showed that the use of spatial ordering as cue to leadership differs across cultures: Singaporeans were more likely than Americans to represent leaders behind rather than in front of groups. Furthermore, they showed that threat priming increases the representation of leaders at the back. We replicate and extend these findings. We draw on cultural tightness theory to explain variability in mental representations of leadership, advance the spatial precedence hypothesis that leaders are generally represented in the front, use a large cross-cultural sample to compare different cultural dimensions, and employ alternative operationalizations of threat. We show that leaders are generally represented in frontal spatial positions across 25 countries and in different types of teams. We also find that cultural tightness and ecological threat (pandemic, warfare, and predation) lead people to represent leaders at the back (Studies 1–5). Mediational models show that ecological threat triggers greater desire for tightness and norm-enforcing leaders, which in turn leads people to represent leaders at the back (Study 4). Likewise, in tightly regulated work-teams, leaders are thought of as being seated at the office’s back desk (Study 5). Thus, we converge with Menon et al. that different cultures have different mental representations of leaders and individuals who face threats show greater preference for leaders at the back. Additionally, we demonstrate that cultural tightness is the key cultural predictor of mental representations of leadership. 

The origins of cultural divergence: Evidence from Vietnam
Hoang-Anh Ho, Peter Martinsson & Ola Olsson
Journal of Economic Growth
, March 2022, Pages 45–89

Cultural norms diverge substantially across societies, often within the same country. We propose and investigate a self-domestication/selective migration hypothesis, proposing that cultural differences along the individualism–collectivism dimension are driven by the out-migration of individualistic people from collectivist core regions of states to peripheral frontier areas, and that such patterns of historical migration are reflected even in the current distribution of cultural norms. Gaining independence in 939 CE after about a thousand years of Chinese colonization, historical Vietnam emerged in the region that is now north Vietnam with a collectivist social organization. From the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries, historical Vietnam gradually expanded its territory southward to the Mekong River Delta through repeated waves of conquest and migration. Using a nationwide household survey, a population census, and a lab-in-the-field experiment, we demonstrate that areas annexed earlier to historical Vietnam are currently more prone to collectivist norms, and that these cultural norms are embodied in individual beliefs. Relying on many historical accounts, together with various robustness checks, we argue that the southward out-migration of individualistic people during the eight centuries of the territorial expansion is an important driver, among many others, of these cultural differences. 

Acting Like a Baby Boomer? Birth-Cohort Differences in Adults’ Personality Trajectories During the Last Half a Century
Naemi Brandt et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming 

Society and developmental theory generally assume that there are wide generational differences in personality. Yet evidence showing historical change in the levels of adult Big Five traits is scarce and particularly so for developmental change. We tracked adult trajectories of personality in 4,732 participants (age: M = 52.93 years, SD = 16.69; 53% female) from the Seattle Longitudinal Study (born 1883–1976) across 50 years. Multilevel models revealed evidence for historical change in personality: At age 56, later-born cohorts exhibited lower levels of maturity-related traits (agreeableness and neuroticism) and higher levels of agency-related traits (extraversion and openness) than earlier-born cohorts. Historical changes in agreeableness and neuroticism were more pronounced among young adults, but changes in openness were less pronounced. Cohort differences in change were rare and were observed only for agreeableness; within-person increases were more pronounced among later-born cohorts. Our results yield the first evidence for historical change in the Big Five across adulthood and point to the roles of delayed social-investment and maturity effects. 

Reflexive or reflective? Group bias in third-party punishment in Chinese and Western cultures
Ziyan Guo et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Third-party punishment (TPP) is critical for promoting cooperation and maintaining societal stability by deterring norm violations. Research has shown that TPP is influenced by ingroup bias, whereby people punish outgroup norm violators more severely than ingroups. The current study examined the social-cognitive mechanisms of the ingroup bias in TPP using a dual-process framework from a cross-cultural perspective. We asked whether people from different cultures were predisposed to ingroup bias, and whether this bias would change through reflection. To investigate this issue, we conducted five experiments employing economic games in Chinese and Western adults (total n = 1300) and a single-paper meta-analysis. Participants observed that ingroup and outgroup members allocated resources unfairly, and then decided how much money to deduct as punishment toward allocators in the reflexive or reflective modes (by manipulating response time constraint or cognitive load). Across a range of experimental designs, results provided converging evidence that Chinese and Western participants both exhibited ingroup favoritism in the reflexive mode, but behaved differently in the reflective mode: Chinese participants remained punishing ingroups less than outgroups, although they felt guilty and spent longer time dealing with ingroup violations; by contrast, ingroup favoritism decreased in the Western sample, especially among high group identifiers. These findings suggest that ingroup favoritism during TPP is reflexive and culturally universal, but it is manifested in different ways to meet specific cultural expectations when punishers make decisions in the reflective mode. This study thus deepens our understanding of how and why TPP is group-biased. 

Outside the “Cultural Binary”: Understanding Why Latin American Collectivist Societies Foster Independent Selves
Kuba Krys et al.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, forthcoming

Cultural psychologists often treat binary contrasts of West versus East, individualism versus collectivism, and independent versus interdependent self-construal as interchangeable, thus assuming that collectivist societies promote interdependent rather than independent models of selfhood. At odds with this assumption, existing data indicate that Latin American societies emphasize collectivist values at least as strongly as Confucian East Asian societies, but they emphasize most forms of independent self-construal at least as strongly as Western societies. We argue that these seemingly “anomalous” findings can be explained by societal differences in modes of subsistence (herding vs. rice farming), colonial histories (frontier settlement), cultural heterogeneity, religious heritage, and societal organization (relational mobility, loose norms, honor logic) and that they cohere with other indices of contemporary psychological culture. We conclude that the common view linking collectivist values with interdependent self-construal needs revision. Global cultures are diverse, and researchers should pay more attention to societies beyond “the West” and East Asia. Our contribution concurrently illustrates the value of learning from unexpected results and the crucial importance of exploratory research in psychological science. 

The Rise of Sonless Families in Asia and North Africa
Roshan Pandian & Keera Allendorf
Demography, forthcoming

A neglected consequence of declining fertility is the likely rise of families with children of one sex — only sons or only daughters. Increases in such families present important demographic shifts that may weaken patrilineal family systems. We assess whether sons-only and daughters-only families rose in Asia and North Africa from the early 1990s to around 2015. Using 88 surveys and two censuses, we examine how the number and sex composition of children of mothers aged 40–49 changed across 20 countries, representing 87% of the region's population and 54% of the global population. We also compare observed trends to sex-indifferent counterfactuals, quantify contributions of fertility declines with decompositions, and investigate subnational trends in China and India. Increases in sons-only families were universal where numbers of children fell. Growth of daughters-only families was suppressed in patrilineal contexts, but these sonless families still rose significantly in 13 of 18 countries where numbers declined. By 2015, over a quarter of families in the region had only sons and nearly a fifth only daughters. There was considerable variation across countries: recent levels ranged from 28.3% to 3.4% daughters-only and from 40.1% to 6.0% sons-only. China and the rest of East Asia had the highest shares. 

Roots of gender equality: The persistent effect of beguinages on attitudes toward women
Annalisa Frigo & Èric Roca Fernández
Journal of Economic Growth, March 2022, Pages 91–148

This paper is concerned with the historical roots of gender equality. It proposes and empirically assesses a new determinant of gender equality: gender-specific outside options in the marriage market. In particular, enlarging women’s options besides marriage — even if only temporarily — increases their bargaining power with respect to men, leading to a persistent improvement in gender equality. We illustrate this mechanism focusing on Belgium, and relate gender-equality levels in the 19th century to the presence of medieval, female-only communities called beguinages that allowed women to remain single amidst a society that traditionally advocated marriage. Combining geo-referenced data on beguinal communities with 19th-century census data, we document that the presence of beguinages contributed to decrease the gender gap in literacy. The reduction is sizeable, amounting to a 12.3% drop in gender educational inequality. Further evidence of the beguinal legacy is provided leveraging alternative indicators of female agency. 

Experiential learning of cultural norms: The role of implicit and explicit aptitudes
Krishna Savani et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

How should I greet her? Should I do what he requests? Newcomers to a culture learn its interpersonal norms at varying rates, largely through trial-and-error experience. Given that the culturally correct response often depends on conditions that are subtle and complex, we propose that newcomers’ rate of acculturation depends on not only their explicit aptitude (e.g., reasoning ability) but also their implicit aptitude (e.g., pattern recognition ability). In Studies 1–3, participants experienced a range of influence situations sourced from a foreign culture. Across many trials, they decided whether or not to comply and then received accuracy feedback (based on what a majority of locals indicated to be the appropriate action in each situation). Across the 3 studies, stronger implicit aptitude was associated with greater improvement from trial-and-error experience, whereas stronger explicit aptitude was not. In Studies 4–6, participants experienced a range of greeting situations from a foreign culture. Across many trials, implicit aptitude predicted experiential learning, especially under conditions that impede reasoning: multiple cues, subliminal feedback, or inconsistent feedback. Study 7 found that the predictiveness of implicit aptitude was weaker under a condition that impedes associative processing: delayed feedback. These findings highlight the important role of implicit aptitude in helping people learn interpersonal norms from trial-and-error experience, particularly because in real-life intercultural interactions, the relevant cues are often complex, and the feedback is often fleeting and inconsistent but immediate. 

Universals and variations in musical preferences: A study of preferential reactions to Western music in 53 countries
David Greenberg et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 2022, Page 286–309

Are there universal patterns in musical preferences? To address this question, we built on theory and research in personality, cultural, and music psychology to map the terrain of preferences for Western music using data from 356,649 people across six continents. In Study 1 (N = 284,935), participants in 53 countries completed a genre favorability measure, and in Study 2 (N = 71,714), participants in 36 countries completed an audio-based measure of preferential reactions to music. Both studies included self-report measures of the Big Five personality traits and demographics. Results converged to show that individual differences in preferences for Western music can be organized in terms of five latent factors that are invariant (i.e., universal) across countries and that generalize across assessment methods. Furthermore, the patterns of correlations between personality traits and musical preferences were largely consistent across countries and assessment methods. For example, trait Extraversion was correlated with stronger reactions to Contemporary musical styles (which feature rhythmic, upbeat, and electronic attributes), whereas trait Openness was correlated with stronger reactions to Sophisticated musical styles (which feature complex and cerebral attributes often heard in improvisational and instrumental music). The patterns of correlations between musical preferences and gender differences, ethnicity, and other sociodemographic metrics were also largely invariant across countries. Together, these findings strongly suggest that there are universal patterns in preferences for Western music, providing a foundation on which to develop and test hypotheses about the interactions between music, psychology, biology, and culture.


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