Distinctive people

Kevin Lewis

September 10, 2019

Latitudinal Psychology: An Ecological Perspective on Creativity, Aggression, Happiness, and Beyond
Evert Van de Vliert & Paul Van Lange
Perspectives on Psychological Science, September 2019, Pages 860-884

Are there systematic trends around the world in levels of creativity, aggressiveness, life satisfaction, individualism, trust, and suicidality? This article suggests a new field, latitudinal psychology, that delineates differences in such culturally shared features along northern and southern rather than eastern and western locations. In addition to geographical, ecological, and other explanations, we offer three metric foundations of latitudinal variations: replicability (latitudinal gradient repeatability across hemispheres), reversibility (north-south gradient reversal near the equator), and gradient strength (degree of replicability and reversibility). We show that aggressiveness decreases whereas creativity, life satisfaction, and individualism increase as one moves closer to either the North or South Pole. We also discuss the replicability, reversibility, and gradient strength of (a) temperatures and rainfall as remote predictors and (b) pathogen prevalence, national wealth, population density, and income inequality as more proximate predictors of latitudinal gradients in human functioning. Preliminary analyses suggest that cultural and psychological diversity often need to be partially understood in terms of latitudinal variations in integrated exposure to climate-induced demands and wealth-based resources. We conclude with broader implications, emphasizing the importance of north-south replications in samples that are not from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies.

Ecological and cultural factors underlying the global distribution of prejudice
Joshua Conrad Jackson et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2019

Prejudiced attitudes and political nationalism vary widely around the world, but there has been little research on what predicts this variation. Here we examine the ecological and cultural factors underlying the worldwide distribution of prejudice. We suggest that cultures grow more prejudiced when they tighten cultural norms in response to destabilizing ecological threats. A set of seven archival analyses, surveys, and experiments (∑N = 3,986,402) find that nations, American states, and pre-industrial societies with tighter cultural norms show the most prejudice based on skin color, religion, nationality, and sexuality, and that tightness predicts why prejudice is often highest in areas of the world with histories of ecological threat. People’s support for cultural tightness also mediates the link between perceived ecological threat and intentions to vote for nationalist politicians. Results replicate when controlling for economic development, inequality, conservatism, residential mobility, and shared cultural heritage. These findings offer a cultural evolutionary perspective on prejudice, with implications for immigration, intercultural conflict, and radicalization.

What explains cultural differences in leadership styles? On the agricultural origins of participative and directive leadership
Sirio Lonati
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

Why do we observe either participative or directive leadership in organizations? I test an evolutionary-informed theory suggesting that organizational leadership is currently less participative (i.e., close supervision, rare delegation) among societies that used intensive forms of agriculture in the past. Intensification caused increased social complexity and skewed power distribution, promoting the emergence of directive leaders and eventually shaping followers' preferences for and perceptions of leadership. Combining evidence, secondary data, and methods developed in economics, anthropology, and applied psychology, I document a negative relationship between traditional agricultural intensity and followers' participative leadership prototypes. I then study the link between traditional agriculture and reliance on delegation to subordinates across firms. I discuss competing hypotheses, explore the interplay between traditional agriculture and organizational-level factors, and show that traditional agricultural intensity does not predict most other leadership prototypes and management practices. Implications for leadership theory – with a focus on evolutionary approaches – are finally discussed.

Ancestral ecological endowments and missing women
Gautam Hazarika, Chandan Kumar Jha & Sudipta Sarangi
Journal of Population Economics, October 2019, Pages 1101–1123

This paper examines the relationship between ecological endowments in antiquity and contemporary female to male sex ratios in the population. It is found that there are proportionately more missing women in countries whose ancestral ecological endowments were poorer. This relationship is shown to be strong even after ancestral plough use, the timing of the Neolithic Transition, and many other potentially confounding factors are controlled for. Similar results are also obtained using district-level data from India.

Diffusion of Gender Norms: Evidence from Stalin's Ethnic Deportations
Alexandra Jarotschkin & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
Paris School of Economics Working Paper, June 2019

We study horizontal between-group cultural transmission using a unique historical setting, which combines exogenous group exposure with no control over how and whether the representatives of different groups interact. Stalin’s ethnic deportations during WWII moved over 2 million people, the majority of whom were ethnic Germans and Chechens, from the Western parts of the USSR to Central Asia and Siberia. As a result, the native population in the destination locations was exposed to groups with drastically different gender norms, depending on the group composition of the deportees. We estimate the effect of this exposure relying on the fact that within subnational regions the local population was fairly homogeneous, and the deportation destinations were determined by local demand for manual labor, orthogonal to the identity or skills of deportees. Combining historical archival data with contemporary surveys, we document that both the norms of gender equality and of gender discrimination were diffused to the local population exposed to deportee groups with these norms, manifesting itself in changes of attitudes and behavior.

The (Agri-)Cultural Origins of Obesity
Evangelos Dioikitopoulos, Dimitrios Minos & Sotiris Vandoros
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Previous research has shown that societies that historically focused on agricultural production demonstrate higher levels of long-term orientation. This suggests that the deep-rooted cultural origins of time preference may have a scarring impact on modern obesity rates through intergenerational transmission. We hypothesize that a historically long-term oriented culture could result in the behavioural choices of better diet and more exercise today, via the reinforced ability of individuals to delay gratification. Using a sample of 132 countries, we employ regression analysis to first estimate the historical determinants of time preference, and then examine the impact of long-term orientation on obesity. Controlling for other factors, we find that, on average, historically long-term oriented countries exhibit significantly lower obesity rates today. Results are robust to different methodological approaches and sensitivity analyses. Policies targeting obesity should consider those deep-rooted behavioural factors that can determine the differential response of individuals to policy instruments.

Different languages, similar encoding efficiency: Comparable information rates across the human communicative niche
Christophe Coupé et al.
Science Advances, September 2019

Language is universal, but it has few indisputably universal characteristics, with cross-linguistic variation being the norm. For example, languages differ greatly in the number of syllables they allow, resulting in large variation in the Shannon information per syllable. Nevertheless, all natural languages allow their speakers to efficiently encode and transmit information. We show here, using quantitative methods on a large cross-linguistic corpus of 17 languages, that the coupling between language-level (information per syllable) and speaker-level (speech rate) properties results in languages encoding similar information rates (~39 bits/s) despite wide differences in each property individually: Languages are more similar in information rates than in Shannon information or speech rate. These findings highlight the intimate feedback loops between languages’ structural properties and their speakers’ neurocognition and biology under communicative pressures. Thus, language is the product of a multiscale communicative niche construction process at the intersection of biology, environment, and culture.

Culturally valued facial expressions enhance loan request success
BoKyung Park et al.
Emotion, forthcoming

Why do people share resources with some strangers, but not others? This question becomes increasingly relevant as online platforms that promote lending world-wide proliferate (e.g., We predicted that lenders from nations that value excitement and other high-arousal positive states (HAP; e.g., United States) would loan more to borrowers who show excitement in their profile photos because the lenders perceive them to be more affiliative (e.g., trustworthy). As predicted, using naturally occurring Kiva data, lenders from the United States and Canada were more likely to lend money to borrowers (N = 13,500) who showed greater positive arousal (e.g., excitement) than were lenders from East Asian nations (e.g., Taiwan), above and beyond loan features (amount, repayment term; Study 1). In a randomly selected sample of Kiva lenders from 11 nations (N = 658), lenders from nations that valued HAP more were more likely to lend money to borrowers who showed open “excited” versus closed “calm” smiles, above and beyond other socioeconomic and cultural factors (Study 2). Finally, we examined whether cultural differences in lending were related to judgments of affiliation in an experimental study (Study 3, N = 103). Compared with Koreans, European Americans lent more to excited borrowers because they viewed them as more affiliative, regardless of borrowers’ race (White, Asian) or sex (male, female). These findings suggest that people use their culture’s affective values to decide with whom to share resources, and lend less to borrowers whose emotional expressions do not match those values, regardless of their race or sex.

Good for self or good for others? The well-being benefits of kindness in two cultures depend on how the kindness is framed
Lilian Shin et al.
Journal of Positive Psychology, forthcoming

In light of cultural differences in conceptions of happiness, we investigated whether members of independent (vs. interdependent) cultures would benefit from prosocial behavior when self-focus is highlighted (vs. when other-focus is highlighted). In a 1-week randomized controlled intervention, U.S. (N = 280) and South Korean (N = 261) participants were randomly assigned to read a news article that described kind acts as good for oneself or good for others, or to read a control article. All participants then performed kind acts throughout the week, and completed pre- and post- measures of subjective well-being, connectedness, competence, and autonomy. Consistent with independent self-construals, U.S. participants who read that kindness was good for themselves showed greater increases in positive affect, satisfaction with life, and feelings of connectedness – and greater decreases in negative affect – than those who read the control article. Future research is needed to continue developing culturally-sensitive designs of positive activities.

Culture-specific development of early mother–infant emotional co-regulation: Italian, Cameroonian, and West African immigrant dyads
Manuela Lavelli et al.
Developmental Psychology, September 2019, Pages 1850-1867

Studies conducted in Western countries document the special role of mother–infant face-to-face exchanges for early emotional development including social smiling. A few cross-cultural studies have shown that the Western pattern of face-to-face communication is absent in traditional rural cultures, without identifying other processes that promote emotional Co-regulation. The present study compared three different samples: Western middle-class families in Italy, rural traditional Nso farmer families in Cameroon, and West African sub-Saharan immigrant families in Italy using biweekly observations of 20 mother–infant dyads from each cultural context from age 4 to 12 weeks. Longitudinal sequential analysis of maternal and infant behaviors showed that from as early as 4 weeks, in Italian dyads maternal affectionate talking is linked with infant active attention to mother in sequences of face-to-face contact; this link fosters the subsequent emergence of infant smiling/cooing, and then sequences of positive feedback between infant and maternal emotional expressions that, by the 3rd month, dynamically stabilize. In contrast, for Cameroonian/Nso dyads over the 2nd and 3rd month, maternal motor stimulation marked by rhythmic vocalizing is linked with infant active attention to surroundings. The relatively few smiling/cooing actions of Nso babies at their mothers were answered mainly with tactile stimulation that did not foster the maintenance of face-to-face visual contact. Finally, West African immigrant dyads showed a combination of both face-to-face and sensorimotor coregulated exchanges observed in their new and native cultures. These findings suggest that emotional Co-regulation in early infancy can occur via multiple, culture-specific pathways that may be substantially different from the western pattern of face-to-face communication.

Sinister right-handedness provides Canadian-born Major League Baseball players with an offensive advantage: A further test of the hockey influence on batting hypothesis
Denver Brown et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2019

Recent research has shown Major League Baseball (MLB) players that bat left-handed and throw right-handed, otherwise known as sinister right-handers, are more likely to have a career batting average (BA) of .299 or higher compared to players with other combinations of batting and throwing handedness. Moreover, possibly owing to early exposure to hockey, Canadian-born MLB players have an increased propensity to be sinister right-handers, however, it has yet to be determined whether this provides a relative offensive performance advantage compared to players born in other countries. Using the largest archival dataset of MLB statistics available, the present study examined the independent influence of batting (i.e., left, right, switch) and throwing (i.e., left, right) handedness combinations and country/region of origin (i.e., Canada, USA, Latin America, Asia, Other) on several indices of offensive performance including BA, slugging percentage (SLG), on-base plus slugging (OPS), on-base plus slugging plus (OPS+), home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), strikeouts (SO) and wins above replacement (WAR). Mediation models were also computed to examine whether birthplace influences offensive performance through handedness. Examination of all recorded MLB batters revealed that batting left, regardless of throwing handedness, confers an offensive performance advantage. Since the inception of the MLB, the relative proportion of Canadian-born sinister right-handers is at least two times greater than players from other regions, although being Canadian-born does not provide a direct offensive advantage. Rather, results showed evidence of a significant indirect effect in that being Canadian-born increases the odds of being a sinister right-hander and in turn leads to greater performance across each offensive performance statistic. Collectively, findings provide further support for the hockey influence on batting hypothesis and suggest this effect extends to offensive performance.


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