Product of the culture

Kevin Lewis

November 23, 2012

Talk of work: Transatlantic divergences in justifications for hard work among French, Norwegian, and American professionals

Jeremy Schulz
Theory and Society, November 2012, Pages 603-634

This article approaches work talk, a neglected but vital object of sociological inquiry, as a possible key to unlocking the mystery of the contemporary work ethic as it appears among male professionals living and working in the United States and Western Europe. This analytical task is carried out through a close examination of the contrasting rhetorics, scripts, and vocabularies anchoring French, Norwegian, and American forms of hard work talk. This comparative exercise capitalizes on material from over one hundred in-depth interviews with comparable French, Norwegian, and American male business professionals working in finance, law, consulting, engineering and other professional fields. Scrutinizing the scripts that members of these three groups use to address their motives for working hard in demanding jobs, this article maps a legitimation divide between the American respondents and their French and Norwegian counterparts. The hard work commentaries of the French and Norwegian respondents feature script repertoires that focus exclusively on the stimulating and enriching character of their work activities. By contrast, the commentaries of the American respondents incorporate overachievement scripts addressing both the extrinsic rewards of work and the personality traits that make hard work a natural expression of personality. These hard work commentaries invoke career success and moneymaking as inducements to hard work. But they also invoke personality traits such as drive and the innate aversion to leisure. This transatlantic divide reflects the greater cultural resonance of self-realization in the two European contexts and the fact that the French and Norwegians have embraced a more Maslowian approach to working life. As I argue in the article's conclusion, these transatlantic differences in script repertoires can be viewed as the product of the societally specific cultural configurations at work in the three countries. Such cultural configurations define what it means - in terms of status and authenticity - to work hard in a remunerative and rewarding job.


Northern = smart and Southern = nice: The development of accent attitudes in the U.S.

Katherine Kinzler & Jasmine DeJesus
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming

Adults evaluate others based on their speech, yet little is known of the developmental trajectory by which accent attitudes are acquired. Here we investigate the development of American children's attitudes about Northern- and Southern-accented American English. Children in Illinois (the "North") and Tennessee (the "South") evaluated the social desirability, personality characteristics, and geographic origins of Northern- and Southern-accented individuals. Five- to 6-year-old children in Illinois preferred the Northern-accented speakers as potential friends, yet did not demonstrate knowledge of any stereotypes about the different groups; 5-6-year-old children in Tennessee did not show a preference toward either type of speaker. Nine- to 10-year-old children in both Illinois and Tennessee evaluated the Northern-accented individuals as sounding "smarter" and "in charge," and the Southern-accented individuals as sounding "nicer." Thus, older children endorse similar stereotypes to those observed in adulthood. These accent attitudes develop in parallel across children in different regions and reflect both positive and negative assessments of a child's own group.


Reassessing the Association between Gun Availability and Homicide at the Cross-National Level

Irshad Altheimer & Matthew Boswell
American Journal of Criminal Justice, December 2012, Pages 682-704

This paper had two objectives. First, to examine the association between gun availability, gun homicide, and homicide in a manner that better accounts for potential simultaneity than previous cross-national research. Second, to examine the manner that the relationship between gun availability and violence is shaped by socio-historical and cultural context. The results lend little support to the notion that gun availability operates uniformly across nations to influence levels of violence. Rather, these results suggest that the nature of the relationship between gun availability and violence is shaped by the socio-historical and cultural processes occurring across nations.


Examining Overconsumption, Competitive Consumption, and Conscious Consumption from 1994 to 2004: Disentangling Cohort and Period Effects

Jasun Carr et al.
ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November 2012, Pages 220-233

Taken together, Robert Putnam's work on the decline of social capital (2000) and Juliet Schor's insights about the rise of "the new consumerism" (1999) suggest a shift in values in which our responsibilities as citizens have taken a backseat to our desires as consumers. This article complicates this shift in civic and consumer culture by examining generational differences in overconsumption, competitive consumption, and conscious consumption between 1994 and 2004. Using survey proxies for these concepts from the annual DDB Needham Life Style Study, the authors find that Generation X exhibits the highest rates of overconsumption and competitive consumption while also displaying the lowest rates of conscious consumption. Notably, the trends for these three aspects of consumer behavior vary in terms of overtime stability, general tendency, and economic responsiveness. These differing patterns of spending and consumption have far-reaching implications for society as a whole, particularly as the Civic Generation fades, the Boomers move out of the workforce, and Generation X becomes mature and culturally dominant.


A Widening Generational Divide? The Age Gap in Voter Turnout Through Time and Space

Kaat Smets
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, Fall 2012, Pages 407-430

This research departs from the observation in the literature that some countries, such as Canada, Great Britain and the United States, in recent years witness a widening of the gap in turnout between younger and older citizens. Based on election study data from ten countries this article shows that the trend toward a widening generational divide is not observed in all Western democracies and that over-time trends in the age gap as a matter of fact are decidedly varied. In an attempt to explain over-time patterns and between-country differences, this research focuses on changing societal characteristics and changes in characteristics of elections. More specifically, the idea that over-time variation in the transition to adulthood has been overlooked as an explanation of declining turnout levels among young voters takes a central place. The findings indicate that delayed transitions to adulthood lead to increased divergence in turnout levels between younger and older voters. Characteristics of elections, measured through indicators of electoral saliency, are not found to have a significant impact on trends in the age gap in voter turnout.


And the Beat Goes On: Popular Billboard Song Beats Per Minute and Key Signatures Vary with Social and Economic Conditions

Terry Pettijohn, Jason Eastman & Keith Richard
Current Psychology, September 2012, Pages 313-317

The beats per minute and key signatures of popular Billboard songs from 1955 to 2008 were investigated along with changes in the social and economic conditions of the USA, in accordance with the Environmental Security Hypothesis. Slower pop songs and songs in less common keys are generally more reflective and serious, whereas faster pop songs and songs in common keys are generally more celebratory and fun. Consistent with theory predictions, songs with more beats per minute and in common key signatures were most popular in social and economic good times and songs with less beats per minute and in less common key signatures were most popular during social and economic bad times. Environmental conditions appear to influence tempo and key preferences of popular music.


Cross-Cultural Investigation of Compliance Without Pressure: The "You Are Free to. . ." Technique in France, Ivory Coast, Romania, Russia, and China

Alexandre Pascual et al.
Cross-Cultural Research, November 2012, Pages 394-416

Compliance-without-pressure techniques have been widely studied in North America and West Europe. Among these techniques, the "but you are free" (BYAF) is a verbal compliance procedure that solicits someone to comply with a request by simply telling a person that he or she is free to accept or refuse the request. This technique is interpreted with the commitment theory and the psychological reactance theory which are more relevant in individualistic cultures than in collectivist cultures. So, four studies compared the efficiency of the BYAF technique in collectivist cultures (Ivory Coast, Russia, and China) and in individualist cultures (France and Romania). As suggested in the hypothesis, our analysis indicated that the BYAF technique will be much less successful in more collectivist cultures. Such results underline the importance of considering specific cultural contexts in social influence studies.


"Good individualism"? Psychology, ethics, and neoliberalism in postsocialist Russia

Tomas Matza
American Ethnologist, November 2012, Pages 804-818

Psychologists working in Russia's cities have found it both desirable and profitable to offer "psychological education" to the children of the elite. I examine two characterizations of this work - as a form of neoliberal subjectivation and as a post-Soviet project focused on progressive sociopolitical reform. Exploring the tensions between them illuminates the historical specificity of self-work in Russia, its relation to commerce and biopolitics, and its political ambiguity. I conclude that studies of governmentality that attend to both subjectivation as an ethical practice and social history can effectively render capitalist complicity and ordinary ethics in the same frame.


Service Employees' Reactions to Mistreatment by Customers: A Comparison between North America and East Asia

Ruodan Shao & Daniel Skarlicki
Personnel Psychology, forthcoming

The authors proposed that customer service employees' reactions to mistreatment by customers can vary between North American and East Asian employees due to differences in their cultural values. Customer mistreatment was predicted to be associated with direct, active, and target-specific reactions (i.e., sabotage directed toward the source of mistreatment) more so among North American employees as compared to East Asian employees. In contrast, customer mistreatment was predicted to relate to more indirect, passive, and target-general reactions (i.e., withdraw organizational citizenship behavior directed toward customers in general) among employees in East Asia as compared to employees in North America. A field study of customer service employees (N = 213) working in the same hotel chain in China and Canada found support for these predictions. Mediation analyses showed that individualism and collectivism accounted for these differences. Theoretical and practical implications are provided and future directions are discussed.


Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Apotheosis of Celebrities in 20th Century America

Timothy Bertoni & Patrick Nolan
Sociation Today, Spring/Summer 2012

Ecological-evolutionary theory (EET) argues, and anecdotal evidence suggests, that with the advancement of industrial technology, there is a decline in the scope and influence of theistic ideologies and a corresponding increase in that of secular ideologies, especially hedonism (Nolan and Lenski 2009: Chapter 11). Using a measure we develop, we explore the quantitative dimensions of this cultural shift by examining a sample of more than a century of obituaries published in the New York Times. As suspected, we find a substantial decline in the proportion of obituaries of religious figures and an increase in those of individuals associated with entertainment and sports. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical import and implications of this trend, and compare it with trends in employment in religious and entertainment and sports occupations over this period.


Contextualizing the Artistic Dividend

Daniel Silver & Diana Miller
Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Artists have been a central theme in recent debates about the causes of urban development. This article shifts attention to the question of context: in what sorts of places are artist concentrations most likely to stimulate the local economy? To tackle this question, we employ a Canadian national database of local amenities. This database includes roughly 1.8 million total amenities in 1,800 distinct categories, across every Canadian locality. By coding these amenity categories on 16 qualitative dimensions (like self-expression, glamour, or neighborliness), we measure the specific cultural "scene" for each Canadian neighborhood. Our main findings are threefold. First, in general there is a strong correlation between artist populations and rising local wages. Second, this correlation is strengthened in more self-expressive, glamorous, and charismatic scenes. Third, in contrast to artists, "creative professionals" are linked with lower local wage growth generally and in such scenes. Finally, synthesizing these results, we conclude with a comment about what it might mean for "bourgeois" and "bohemian" lifestyle preferences to become more tightly integrated in contemporary postindustrial contexts, offering evidence based on the location of artists, graphic designers, and advertising firms that processes of functional differentiation and interchange may provide a more compelling explanation than processes of fusion and conflict.


The relationship between reviewer judgments and motion picture success: Re-analysis and extension

Thorsten Hennig-Thurau, André Marchand & Barbara Hiller
Journal of Cultural Economics, August 2012, Pages 249-283

The relationship between the judgments of professional reviewers and the economic success of cultural products, such as motion pictures, has been the topic of controversial debates involving both scholars and industry experts. This study builds on previous research that distinguishes an "influencer effect" of reviews from a "predictor effect." By empirically separating consumers' and reviewers' perceptions of movie quality through an auxiliary regression approach (and thus effectively controls for consumers' quality perceptions), this study advances the discussion by investigating whether and how isolated reviewer quality perceptions are associated with box office results. The authors empirically test a non-linear effect of reviewers' quality perceptions on box office returns, including a comprehensive investigation of the moderating forces of this relationship, using regression and simple slope analyses. Data from all 1,370 narrative films released in the United States between 1998 and 2006 reveal that though the short-term box office generally is not influenced by isolated reviewer quality perceptions, a non-linear relationship exists between reviews and long-term box office returns, such that films rated highly by reviewers are more strongly influenced than those that are not. In terms of moderators, the authors find evidence for several arthouse and mainstream characteristics to moderate the relationship between isolated reviewer quality perceptions and box office results.


Money, Sociability and Happiness: Are Developed Countries Doomed to Social Erosion and Unhappiness? Time-series Analysis of Social Capital and Subjective Well-being in Western Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan

Francesco Sarracino
Social Indicators Research, November 2012, Pages 135-188

Discovering whether social capital endowments in modern societies have been subjected or not to a process of gradual erosion is one of the most debated topics in recent economic literature. Inaugurated by Putnam's pioneering studies, the debate on social capital trends has been recently revived by Stevenson and Wolfers (2008) contending Easterlin's assessment. Present work is aimed at finding evidence for the relationship between changes in social capital and subjective well-being in western Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan between 1980 and 2005. In particular, I would like to answer questions such as: (1) is social capital in western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan declining? Is such erosion a general trend of modern and richer societies or is it a characteristic feature of the American one? (2) can social capital trend help explain subjective well-being trend? Therefore, present research considers three different set of proxies of social capital controlling for time and socio-demographic aspects using WVS-EVS data between 1980 and 2005. Present results are encouraging, showing evidence of positive correlation between several proxies of social capital and both happiness and life satisfaction. Furthermore, results show that during last twenty-five years people in some of the most modern and developed countries have persistently lost confidence in the judicial system, religious institutions, parliament and civil service.


Sociocultural patterning of neural activity during self-reflection

Yina Ma et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Western cultures encourage self-construals independent of social contexts, whereas East Asian cultures foster interdependent self-construals that rely on how others perceive the self. How are culturally specific self-construals mediated by the human brain? Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we monitored neural responses from adults in East Asian (Chinese) and Western (Danish) cultural contexts during judgments of social, mental and physical attributes of themselves and public figures to assess cultural influences on self-referential processing of personal attributes in different dimensions. We found that judgments of self vs a public figure elicited greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in Danish than in Chinese participants regardless of attribute dimensions for judgments. However, self-judgments of social attributes induced greater activity in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) in Chinese than in Danish participants. Moreover, the group difference in TPJ activity was mediated by a measure of a cultural value (i.e. interdependence of self-construal). Our findings suggest that individuals in different sociocultural contexts may learn and/or adopt distinct strategies for self-reflection by changing the weight of the mPFC and TPJ in the social brain network.

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