Socially Evolved

Kevin Lewis

November 19, 2010

Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality

Louis Putterman & David Weil
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

We construct a matrix showing the share of the year 2000 population in every country that is descended from people in different source countries in the year 1500. Using this matrix, we analyze how post-1500 migration has influenced the level of GDP per capita and within-country income inequality in the world today. Indicators of early development such as early state history and the timing of transition to agriculture have much better predictive power for current GDP when one looks at the ancestors of the people who currently live in a country than when one considers the history on that country's territory, without adjusting for migration. Measures of the ethnic or linguistic heterogeneity of a country's current population do not predict income inequality as well as measures of the ethnic or linguistic heterogeneity of the current population's ancestors. An even better predictor of current inequality in a country is the variance of early development history of the country's inhabitants, with ethnic groups originating in regions having longer histories of agriculture and organized states tending to be at the upper end of a country's income distribution. However, high within-country variance of early development also predicts higher income per capita, holding constant the average level of early development.


A two level mutation-selection model of cultural evolution and diversity

Isaac Salazar-Ciudad
Journal of Theoretical Biology, 21 November 2010, Pages 171-185

Cultural evolution is a complex process that can happen at several levels. At the level of individuals in a population, each human bears a set of cultural traits that he or she can transmit to its offspring (vertical transmission) or to other members of his or her society (horizontal transmission). The relative frequency of a cultural trait in a population or society can thus increase or decrease with the relative reproductive success of its bearers (individual's level) or the relative success of transmission (called the idea's level). This article presents a mathematical model on the interplay between these two levels. The first aim of this article is to explore when cultural evolution is driven by the idea's level, when it is driven by the individual's level and when it is driven by both. These three possibilities are explored in relation to (a) the amount of interchange of cultural traits between individuals, (b) the selective pressure acting on individuals, (c) the rate of production of new cultural traits, (d) the individual's capacity to remember cultural traits and to the population size. The aim is to explore the conditions in which cultural evolution does not lead to a better adaptation of individuals to the environment. This is to contrast the spread of fitness-enhancing ideas, which make individual bearers better adapted to the environment, to the spread of "selfish" ideas, which spread well simply because they are easy to remember but do not help their individual bearers (and may even hurt them). At the same time this article explores in which conditions the adaptation of individuals is maximal. The second aim is to explore how these factors affect cultural diversity, or the amount of different cultural traits in a population. This study suggests that a larger interchange of cultural traits between populations could lead to cultural evolution not improving the adaptation of individuals to their environment and to a decrease of cultural diversity.


A Silent Emergence of Culture: The Social Tuning Effect

Garriy Shteynberg
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2010, Pages 683-689

Scholars have long been concerned with understanding the psychological mechanisms by which cultural (i.e., shared) knowledge emerges. This article proposes a novel psychological mechanism that allows for the formation of cultural memories, even when intragroup communication is absent. Specifically, the research examines whether a stimulus is more psychologically and behaviorally prominent when it is assumed to be experienced by more similar versus less similar others. Findings across 3 studies suggest that stimuli such as time pressure (Study 1), words (Study 2), and paintings (Study 3) are more psychologically and behaviorally prominent when they are thought to be experienced by more (vs. less) similar others. Critically, the effect is absent when similar others are thought to be experiencing distinct stimuli from the participant (Study 3). Taken as a whole, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that stimuli which are assumed to be experienced by one's social group are more prominent in both cognition and behavior. Theoretical implications for the emergence of culture are discussed.


Political correctness, euphemism, and language change: The case of ‘people first'

Helena Halmari
Journal of Pragmatics, forthcoming

The early 1990s saw the proposal for ‘people first' language: premodified nouns (disabled people) were to be replaced by postmodified nouns (people with disabilities). This usage was widely adopted in the fields of education and psychology. This article examines the distribution of both patterns in the electronic archives of the Houston Chronicle from 2002 to 2007, well after the suggestion for postmodification euphemism was launched, to investigate how widely the pattern has been adopted in everyday language use. The data from the Houston Chronicle are compared to the usage patterns in Google News. Contrary to the usage in contemporary educational and psychological literature, the Houston Chronicle seems to favor the ‘non-PC' usage: over 70% of the phrases resort to premodification. The distribution of ‘non-PC' vs. ‘PC' phrases, however, is not random: premodification refers to ‘undesirable' societal elements (e.g., prisoners) or, for instance, to fictional characters in movie descriptions; by contrast, postmodification is reserved for children or non-criminal adults. The juxtaposition of these patterns in contemporary newspaper articles, and their deliberate separation in terms of the semantics of the referent (premodification for ‘undesirable' or fictional referents; postmodification for ‘vulnerable' referents) is likely to block the broader adoption of the ‘PC' syntactic pattern and will ultimately fuel a desire for further euphemisms dependent on lexical innovations. The same patterns appear in Google News; however, lexically ‘non-PC' usage, together with metalinguistic discussions of how to refer to the target group are much more prevalent in Google News than in the Houston Chronicle.


Does culture still matter?: The effects of individualism on national innovation rates

Mark Zachary Taylor & Sean Wilson
Journal of Business Venturing, forthcoming

Does a society's culture affect its rate of inventive activity? This article analyzes several independent datasets of culture and innovation from 62 countries spanning more than two decades. It finds that most measures of individualism have a strong, significant, and positive effect on innovation, even when controlling for major policy variables. However, the data also suggest that a certain type of collectivism (i.e. patriotism and nationalism) can also foster innovation at the national level. Meanwhile, other types of collectivism (i.e. familism and localism) not only harm innovation rates, but may hurt progress in science worse than technology.


Cultural Differences Between East and West Germany After 1991: Communist Values vs. Economic Performance?

André van Hoorn & Robbert Maseland
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Two decades after reunification substantial economic disparities between East and West Germany remain. With formal institutions being equalized, a typical explanation is that the partition of Germany created differences in economic values and attitudes that continue to feed differences in economic performance. Empirical work using values surveys to investigate the extent to which values differ between East and West has thus far produced mixed findings. We use individual-level panel data to assess East and West German value preferences by investigating how individuals from each group differentially transform situational factors into happiness. This novel method of assessing value differences shows that preferences indeed vary between East and West Germans. However, this variation is not in line with the differences associated with the gap in economic performance; if anything, Easterners appear to entertain values more conducive to economic growth. This suggests that the belief that economic differences between Eastern and Western Germany are a result of a Communist cultural legacy may be largely a myth.


Testing the hypothesis of the natural suicide rates: Further evidence from OECD data

Antonio Rodríguez Andrés & Ferda Halicioglu
Economic Modelling, forthcoming

This paper provides further evidence on the hypothesis of the natural rate of suicide using the time series data for 15 OECD countries over the period 1970-2004. This hypothesis suggests that the suicide rate of a society could never be zero even if both the economic and the social conditions were made ideal from the point of view of suicide (Yang and Lester, 1991). This research relates the suicide rates to harmonized unemployment and divorce rates to test the natural hypothesis statistically. We also address methodological flaws by earlier suicide studies by employing autoregressive-distributed lag (ARDL) approach to cointegration advocated by Pesaran et al. (2001). In majority of regression equations, the constant term was positive and statistically significant, indicating a non-zero natural suicide rate. In particular, we find evidence that at aggregate level, Turkey has the lowest (3.64) and Japan has the highest (13.98) natural rate of suicides. In terms of the male natural suicide rates, the United Kingdom ranks the lowest (4.73) and Belgium ranks the top (15.44). As for the female natural suicide rates, Japan takes the lead (16.76) and Italy has the lowest (5.60). The results are also compared and contrasted to each other with a view to drawing plausible policy conclusions.


The Celebrity-Icon

Jeffrey Alexander
Cultural Sociology, November 2010, Pages 323-336

This article develops a non-reductive approach to celebrity, treating it as an iconic form of collective representation central to the meaningful construction of contemporary society. Like other compelling material symbols, the celebrity-icon is structured by the interplay of surface and depth. The surface is an aesthetic structure whose sensuous qualities command attention and compel attachment; the depth projects the sacred and profane binaries that structure meaning even in postmodern societies. While celebrity worship displays elements of totemism, it also reflects the eschatological hopes for salvation that mark post-Axial Age religion. The attacks on celebrity culture that inform critical public and intellectual thinking resemble iconoclastic criticisms of idol worship more than they do empirical social scientific study.


Cross-cultural differences in the refusal to accept a small gift: The differential influence of reciprocity norms on Asians and North Americans

Hao Shen, Fang Wan & Robert Wyer
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Asians are more likely than North Americans to refuse a small gift that is offered to them by a casual acquaintance. Five experiments confirmed this difference and explored the reasons for its occurrence. Asians, who are inclined to think of themselves in relation to others, are more likely than North Americans to invoke a reciprocity norm in exchanging gifts with casual acquaintances, and they refuse a gift in order to avoid the feeling of indebtedness they would experience if they cannot reciprocate. North Americans, however, who are inclined to think of themselves independently of others, are more likely to base their acceptance of the gift on its attractiveness without considering their obligation to reciprocate. These cultural differences are not evident when the gift is offered by a close friend with whom individuals have a communal relationship. Implications of our findings for miscommunication between members of different cultures are discussed.


Urban Scaling and Its Deviations: Revealing the Structure of Wealth, Innovation and Crime across Cities

Luís Bettencourt, José Lobo, Deborah Strumsky & Geoffrey West
PLoS ONE, November 2010, e13541

With urban population increasing dramatically worldwide, cities are playing an increasingly critical role in human societies and the sustainability of the planet. An obstacle to effective policy is the lack of meaningful urban metrics based on a quantitative understanding of cities. Typically, linear per capita indicators are used to characterize and rank cities. However, these implicitly ignore the fundamental role of nonlinear agglomeration integral to the life history of cities. As such, per capita indicators conflate general nonlinear effects, common to all cities, with local dynamics, specific to each city, failing to provide direct measures of the impact of local events and policy. Agglomeration nonlinearities are explicitly manifested by the superlinear power law scaling of most urban socioeconomic indicators with population size, all with similar exponents (~1.15). As a result larger cities are disproportionally the centers of innovation, wealth and crime, all to approximately the same degree. We use these general urban laws to develop new urban metrics that disentangle dynamics at different scales and provide true measures of local urban performance. New rankings of cities and a novel and simpler perspective on urban systems emerge. We find that local urban dynamics display long-term memory, so cities under or outperforming their size expectation maintain such (dis)advantage for decades. Spatiotemporal correlation analyses reveal a novel functional taxonomy of U.S. metropolitan areas that is generally not organized geographically but based instead on common local economic models, innovation strategies and patterns of crime.


Spontaneous emergence of social influence in online systems

Jukka-Pekka Onnela & Felix Reed-Tsochas
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 October 2010, Pages 18375-18380

Social influence drives both offline and online human behavior. It pervades cultural markets, and manifests itself in the adoption of scientific and technical innovations as well as the spread of social practices. Prior empirical work on the diffusion of innovations in spatial regions or social networks has largely focused on the spread of one particular technology among a subset of all potential adopters. Here we choose an online context that allows us to study social influence processes by tracking the popularity of a complete set of applications installed by the user population of a social networking site, thus capturing the behavior of all individuals who can influence each other in this context. By extending standard fluctuation scaling methods, we analyze the collective behavior induced by 100 million application installations, and show that two distinct regimes of behavior emerge in the system. Once applications cross a particular threshold of popularity, social influence processes induce highly correlated adoption behavior among the users, which propels some of the applications to extraordinary levels of popularity. Below this threshold, the collective effect of social influence appears to vanish almost entirely, in a manner that has not been observed in the offline world. Our results demonstrate that even when external signals are absent, social influence can spontaneously assume an on-off nature in a digital environment. It remains to be seen whether a similar outcome could be observed in the offline world if equivalent experimental conditions could be replicated.


Framing Latinas: Hispanic women through the lenses of Spanish-language and English-language news media

Teresa Correa
Journalism, August 2010, Pages 425-443

It is argued that the media's tendency to stereotype minority groups is due, in part, to a weak identification with them. This study compared the frames used by the Miami Herald (MH), an English-language newspaper targeted to general audiences, and El Nuevo Herald (ENH), its Spanish-language counterpart targeted to Hispanics, to explore whether the stronger media identification with the audience affects the type of frames used to depict Latinas. Using framing as a theoretical framework, this investigation found that the MH emphasized the individual achievements of successful women and described them as a new profitable market. ENH highlighted the family sacrifices of successful females and depicted them as family-devoted and sensual. As a result, the greater cultural identification with the audience may avoid manifest negative stereotypes but embrace pan-ethnic stereotypes that, eventually, may become harmful because they contribute to the homogenization and racialization of a group such as Latinas.


The Evaluation of Popular Music in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands: A Comparison of the Use of High Art and Popular Aesthetic Criteria

Alex van Venrooij & Vaughn Schmutz
Cultural Sociology, November 2010, Pages 395-421

Popular music has apparently gained much in status and artistic legitimacy. Some have argued that popular music criticism has assimilated the evaluative criteria traditionally associated with high art aesthetics to legitimate pop music as a serious art form, while others have claimed that popular music discourse opposes the evaluative principles of high art worlds in favor of a ‘popular aesthetic'. Drawing on the theoretical framework of Lamont, DiMaggio and Bourdieu, we compare the critical discourse on popular music in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands and expect that the presence of ‘high art' and ‘popular' aesthetic criteria in popular music reviews published in elite newspapers varies cross-nationally due to differences in the hierarchy, universality and boundary strength of their respective cultural classification systems. We compare the prevalence of various high art and popular evaluative criteria in popular music album reviews in American, Dutch, and German newspapers. In the US, the boundary between high art and popular aesthetics appears to be weakest, German reviewers take the most high art approach to popular music, while Dutch reviews clearly favor the popular aesthetic over high art criteria.


Scenes: Social Context in an Age of Contingency

Daniel Silver, Terry Nichols Clark & Clemente Jesus Navarro Yanez
Social Forces, July 2010, Pages 2293-2324

This article builds on an important but underdeveloped social science concept - the "scene" as a cluster of urban amenities - to contribute to social science theory and subspecialties such as urban and rural, class, race and gender studies. Scenes grow more important in less industrial, more expressively-oriented and contingent societies where traditional constraints fall and self-motivated action around consumption, leisure and amenities is a more important feature of social cohesiveness and interaction. Scenes contextualize the individual through amenities and consumption-based expressions of shared sensibilities as to what is right, beautiful and genuine. This framework adds to concepts such as neighborhood and workplace by specifying 15 dimensions of the urban scenescape. Like neighborhood and workplace, scenes reduce anomie, but because of their focus on consumption and the use of specific amenities, they are more consistent with today's ethos of contingency, moving beyond traditional ideas of the fundamental power of social, family and occupational background. We introduce a new amenities-focused database to measure and analyze scenes and their dimensions for each of 40,000 U.S. zip codes. We illustrate the framework by applying it to one distinct type of scene, bohemia, and analyze its position in the broader social system.


Emergent cultural signatures and persistent diversity: A model of conformity and consistency

Jenna Bednar, Aaron Bramson, Andrea Jones-Rooy & Scott Page
Rationality and Society, November 2010, Pages 407-444

Empirical evidence demonstrates that cultures exist, they differ from one another, they're coherent and yet diversity persists within them. In this paper, we describe a multi-dimensional model of cultural formation that produces all of these properties. Our model includes two forces: an internal desire to be consistent and social pressure to conform. When both forces operate, the society converges to a coordinated behavior that is consistent across the attributes. We find that convergence in the two-force model is slower than a pure conformity model and that a preponderance of one force over the other slows convergence, rather than hastening it. We further find that the two forces amplify small errors in individual behavior and prove capable of producing substantial persistent diversity.

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