Something different in the air

Kevin Lewis

December 19, 2017

Regional ambient temperature is associated with human personality
Wenqi Wei et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, December 2017, Pages 890–895

Human personality traits differ across geographic regions. However, it remains unclear what generates these geographic differences in personality. Since humans constantly experience and react to ambient temperature, we propose that temperature is a critical environmental factor that influences individuals’ habitual behavioral patterns and thus predicts the fundamental dimensions of personality. To test the relationship between ambient temperature and personality, we conducted two large-scale studies within two geographically large yet culturally distinct countries: China and the United States. Using data from 59 Chinese cities (N = 5,587), machine learning and multilevel analyses revealed that individuals who grew up in areas with milder temperatures (i.e., closer to 22 °C) scored higher on personality factors related to socialization/stability (agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability) and personal growth/plasticity (extraversion, openness to experience). These same relationships between temperature clemency and personality factors were replicated in a larger dataset of 12,499 ZIP-code level locations (the lowest geographic level feasible) within the United States (N = 1,660,638). Taken together, our findings provide a perspective of why and how personalities vary across geographic regions beyond past theories (subsistence theory, selective migration theory, pathogen prevalence theory). As climate change continues across the globe, we may also observe concomitant changes in human personality.

Culture, Masculine Honor, and Violence Toward Women
Ryan Brown, Kiersten Baughman & Mauricio Carvallo
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Prior research has connected the cultural ideology of honor to intrasexual violence between men and to attitudes supporting intersexual aggression in response to perceived honor violations by female romantic partners. We extend this research to show that honor ideology is also associated with an increased likelihood of men actually engaging in violent and sexually coercive behaviors toward women. Extending previous research on honor-based schemas and scripts linked to relationship violence, comparisons between honor states and non–honor states in the United States show that official rape and domestic homicide rates by White male perpetrators (Study 1) and experiences of rape and violence in relationships anonymously reported by White female teenagers (Study 2) were higher in honor states, controlling for a variety of potential confounds. These results extend prior laboratory research on honor-based schemas and scripts into the realm of extreme, real-world behaviors.

The autocratic roots of social distrust
Xu Xu & Xin Jin
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

This paper presents evidence that autocratic culture adversely affects social trust and political participation. We find that individuals whose ancestors migrated from countries with higher autocracy levels are less likely to trust others and to vote in presidential elections in the U.S. The impact of autocratic culture on trust can last for at least three generations while the impact on voting disappears after one generation. These impacts on trust and voting are also significant across Europe. We further access the robustness of our findings concerning selection into migration and other confounders such as home countries’ economic conditions, human capital stocks, and the strength of family ties.

The Importance of Timing in Reciprocity: An Investigation of Reciprocity Norms Among Indians and Americans
Namrata Goyal & Joan Miller
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

After receiving help, individuals tend to experience an immediate increase in obligation to be responsive to the helper. Cross-cultural research has shown that whereas this sense of obligation dissipates for Americans after reciprocation, it remains unchanged after reciprocation for Indians. Is this decrease in obligation felt by Americans temporary, or can it endure over years such that it provides immunity from responding to the helper? And is there a statute of limitations on the experience of obligation for Indians? If individuals do not reciprocate, can obligation expire? We addressed these questions in a vignette-based experimental investigation involving American and Indian adults. Study 1 (N = 153) demonstrated that Americans but not Indians felt less obligation to aid the helper after reciprocation than in situations in which they had not reciprocated years after receiving a benefit. Reciprocation thus provided Americans, but not Indians, with immunity from being responsive to the helper. Study 2 (N = 141) demonstrated that Americans but not Indians felt less obligation years after as compared with months after receiving a benefit. The passage of time thus expired obligation to be responsive to the helper for Americans but not for Indians. Study 3 (N = 129) provided ecological validity to our hypotheses by assessing real-life friendships, showing how both reciprocations and time passage affect obligation independently and in combination. The findings imply that prosocial behavior is affected by both time passage and reciprocation among Americans but not Indians.

Institutions, Norms, and Accountability: A Corruption Experiment with Northern and Southern Italians
Nan Zhang
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming

Anti-corruption research has highlighted the potential for grassroots monitoring to improve governance outcomes, but the conditions under which citizens are willing to report bribery remain under-studied. Are individuals from some societies socialized into a “culture of corruption” that makes them more accepting of malfeasance, or is the failure to denounce wrongdoing simply a response to low-quality enforcement institutions? I conduct a laboratory experiment to examine how the propensity to report corruption differs between Northern and Southern Italians, two populations experiencing different levels of corruption in everyday life. For each group, I experimentally manipulate the quality of enforcement institutions. When given high-quality institutions, all participants are more willing to report corruption. Moreover, Southerners and Northerners behave similarly when placed within the same institutional environments. These results suggest that high-corruption societies are not “culturally” predisposed to tolerate malfeasance. Rather, improving the capacity of enforcement institutions may significantly strengthen accountability norms.

What Goes Up Must . . . Keep Going Up? Cultural Differences in Cognitive Styles Influence Evaluations of Dynamic Performance
Lance Ferris et al.
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

Past research on dynamic workplace performance evaluation has taken as axiomatic that temporal performance trends produce naïve extrapolation effects on performance ratings. That is, we naïvely assume that an individual whose performance has trended upward over time will continue to improve, and rate that individual more positively than an individual whose performance has trended downward over time—even if, on average, the 2 individuals have performed at an equivalent level. However, we argue that such naïve extrapolation effects are more pronounced in Western countries than Eastern countries, owing to Eastern countries having a more holistic cognitive style. To test our hypotheses, we examined the effect of performance trend on expectations of future performance and ratings of past performance across 2 studies: Study 1 compares the magnitude of naïve extrapolation effects among Singaporeans primed with either a more or less holistic cognitive style, and Study 2 examines holistic cognitive style as a mediating mechanism accounting for differences in the magnitude of naïve extrapolation effects between American and Chinese raters. Across both studies, we found support for our predictions that dynamic performance trends have less impact on the ratings of more holistic thinkers. Implications for the dynamic performance and naïve extrapolation literatures are discussed.

Is ☺ Smiling? Cross-Cultural Study on Recognition of Emoticon’s Emotion
Kohske Takahashi, Takanori Oishi & Masaki Shimada
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, November 2017, Pages 1578-1586

Emoticons are getting more popular as the new communication channel to express feelings in online communication. Although familiarity to emoticons depends on cultures, how exposure matters in emotion recognition from emoticon is still open. To address this issue, we conducted a cross-cultural experimental study among Cameroon and Tanzania (hunter-gatherers, swidden farmers, pastoralists, and city dwellers) wherein people rarely experience emoticons and Japan wherein emoticons are popular. Emotional emoticons (e.g., ☺) as well as pictures of real faces were presented on a tablet device. The stimuli expressed a sad, neutral, or happy feeling. The participants rated the emotion of stimulus on a Sad–Happy Scale. We found that the emotion rating for the real faces was slightly different but similar among three cultural groups, which supported the “dialect” view of emotion recognition. Contrarily, while Japanese people were also sensitive to the emotion of emoticons, Cameroonian and Tanzanian people hardly read emotion from emoticons. These results suggested that the exposure to emoticons would shape the sensitivity to emotion recognition of emoticons, that is, ☺ does not necessarily look smiling to everyone.

One Country, Two Cultures: Implicit Space-Time mappings in Southern and Northern Vietnamese
Heng Li, Quynh Van Bui & Yu Cao
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

What determines how people implicitly associate the “past” and “future” with “front” and “back”? According to the Temporal Focus Hypothesis (TFH), people's cultural attitudes toward time influence their implicit space-time mappings. However, previous research mainly used cross-cultural comparison in which the cultures compared differ not only in attentional focus on temporal events, but may also in other cultural values. Thus, the specific role of cultural attitudes toward time has not been tested. In the current study, we compared Southern and Northern Vietnamese who have many aspects in common but demonstrate cultural differences in attitudes toward the past and future. The results showed that the two groups of participants tended to think about time according to their temporal focus. Taken together, this pattern of results showed that within-cultural differences in temporal focus can also predict variation in space-time mappings, which provided further supporting evidence for the TFH.

Effects of Emotion Suppression on Life Satisfaction in Americans and Chinese
Yeseul Nam, Young-Hoon Kim & Kevin Kim-Pong Tam
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

The present study aimed to uncover culturally different ways in which emotion suppression affects life satisfaction. To do so, we manipulated American and Hong Kong Chinese participants to perceive that they had suppressed their emotions to either a greater extent (high suppression) or a lesser extent (low suppression). In the control condition, there was no manipulation. Then, participants indicated how satisfied they were with their lives. We found that American participants reported lower life satisfaction in the high-suppression (vs. control) condition, but no difference was found between the low-suppression and the control condition, suggesting that high use of emotion suppression undermines Americans’ life satisfaction. In contrast, Hong Kong Chinese participants reported higher life satisfaction in the low-suppression (vs. control) condition, but no difference was found between the high-suppression and the control condition, suggesting that Hong Kong Chinese benefit from low use of emotion suppression. The implications of these findings are discussed.

How accurately can other people infer your thoughts — And does culture matter
Constantinos Valanides, Elizabeth Sheppard & Peter Mitchell
PLoS ONE, November 2017

This research investigated how accurately people infer what others are thinking after observing a brief sample of their behaviour and whether culture/similarity is a relevant factor. Target participants (14 British and 14 Mediterraneans) were cued to think about either positive or negative events they had experienced. Subsequently, perceiver participants (16 British and 16 Mediterraneans) watched videos of the targets thinking about these things. Perceivers (both groups) were significantly accurate in judging when targets had been cued to think of something positive versus something negative, indicating notable inferential ability. Additionally, Mediterranean perceivers were better than British perceivers in making such inferences, irrespective of nationality of the targets, something that was statistically accounted for by corresponding group differences in levels of independently measured collectivism. The results point to the need for further research to investigate the possibility that being reared in a collectivist culture fosters ability in interpreting others’ behaviour.

Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself
Uri Gneezy et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2017

Tests measuring and comparing educational achievement are an important policy tool. We experimentally show that offering students extrinsic incentives to put forth effort on such achievement tests has differential effects across cultures. Offering incentives to U.S. students, who generally perform poorly on assessments, improved performance substantially. In contrast, Shanghai students, who are top performers on assessments, were not affected by incentives. Our findings suggest that in the absence of extrinsic incentives, ranking countries based on low-stakes assessments is problematic because test scores reflect differences in intrinsic motivation to perform well on the test itself, and not just differences in ability.

Cultural differences in preferences for facial coloration
Chengyang Han et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Effects of facial coloration on facial attractiveness judgments are hypothesized to be “universal” (i.e., similar across cultures). Cross-cultural similarity in facial color preferences is a critical piece of evidence for this hypothesis. However, only two studies have directly compared facial color preferences in two cultures. Both of those studies reported that White UK and Black African participants showed similar preferences for facial coloration. By contrast with the cross-cultural similarity reported in those studies, here we show cultural differences in the effects of facial coloration on Chinese and White UK participants' facial attractiveness judgments. While Chinese participants preferred faces with decreased yellowness to faces with increased yellowness, White UK participants preferred faces with increased yellowness to faces with decreased yellowness. Chinese participants also demonstrated weaker preferences for facial redness and stronger preferences for facial lightness than did White UK participants. These results suggest that preferences for facial coloration are not universal.

Markets, Trust and Cultural Biases: Evidence from eBay
Ricardo Perez-Truglia
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, February 2018, Pages 17-27

A body of research argues that cultural biases in trust may be responsible for economic backwardness. This paper studies the role of cultural biases in a real-world market, eBay, with well-designed features intended to facilitate cooperation. We analyze the buyer’s decision to leave negative feedback as an act of mistrust towards the seller. To identify the effects of buyer characteristics on feedback choices, we exploit an identification strategy that leverages high-volume data from millions of transactions. We find that negative feedback decreases as buyers gain experience on the market. Also, we show that measures of pro-social beliefs and behavior do not explain feedback choices. Our favorite interpretation is that cultural biases in trust may have limited importance in markets with effective reputation-building mechanisms.


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