Space and time

Kevin Lewis

October 18, 2016

American individualism rises and falls with the economy: Cross-temporal evidence that individualism declines when the economy falters

Emily Bianchi

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2016, Pages 567-584

Past work has shown that economic growth often engenders greater individualism. Yet much of this work charts changes in wealth and individualism over long periods of time, making it unclear whether rising individualism is primarily driven by wealth or by the social and generational changes that often accompany large-scale economic transformations. This article explores whether individualism is sensitive to more transient macroeconomic fluctuations, even in the absence of transformative social changes or generational turnover. Six studies found that individualism swelled during prosperous times and fell during recessionary times. In good economic times, Americans were more likely to give newborns uncommon names (Study 1), champion autonomy in children (Study 2), aspire to look different from others (Study 3), and favor music with self-focused language (Study 4). Conversely, when the economy was floundering, Americans were more likely to socialize children to attend to the needs of others (Study 2) and favor music with other-oriented language (Study 4). Subsequent studies found that recessions engendered uncertainty (Study 5) which in turn tempered individualism and fostered interdependence (Study 6).


Geographical Origins and Economic Consequences of Language Structures

Oded Galor, Ömer Özak & Assaf Sarid

Brown University Working Paper, August 2016

This research explores the economic causes and consequences of language structures. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that variations in pre-industrial geographical characteristics that were conducive to higher return to agricultural investment, larger gender gap in agricultural productivity, and more hierarchical society, are at the root of existing cross-language variations in the presence of the future tense, grammatical gender, and politeness distinctions. Moreover, the research suggests that while language structures have largely reflected the coding of past human experience and in particular the range of ancestral cultural traits in society, they independently affected human behavior and economic outcomes.


Is There a Culture or Religion of Torture? International Support for Brutal Treatment of Suspected Terrorists

Jeremy Mayer & Naoru Koizumi

Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming

Do certain cultures or religions predispose citizens to support the deployment of torture against suspected terrorists? Based on an international survey of 31 different countries, we examine how religion and culture affect respondents' position on torture. We find that at the individual level, the non-religious are resolutely opposed to torture, and that Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and other faiths are more supportive. Among world cultures, Muslim/African cultures are most opposed to torture of terrorists, while Confucian, English-speaking, and South Asian cultures are the most supportive of it. We also find that the use of torture has less support in countries that are suffering from terrorism, once religion and culture are considered.


Securing property rights: A dilemma experiment in Austria, Mexico, Mongolia, South Korea and the United States

T.K. Ahn et al.

Journal of Public Economics, November 2016, Pages 115–124

Secure property rights result from a combination of public enforcement, private protective measures, and voluntary norm-compliance. We conduct a laboratory experiment to study how culture interacts with institutions in shaping individuals' behaviors and group outcomes in a property rights dilemma. The experiment is conducted in five countries: Austria, Mexico, Mongolia, South Korea and the United States. We find that the security of property varies with the experimentally available institutions and country-level indicators such as trust and quality of government. Subjects from countries with higher levels of trust are more likely to abstain initially from theft, devote more resources to production and support funding public protection of property through taxation. Our findings highlight the relevance of cultural and institutional factors, and their interaction, in addressing the collective action problem of safeguarding property rights.


Migration as a Test of the Happiness Set Point Hypothesis: Evidence from Immigration to Canada

John Helliwell, Aneta Bonikowska & Hugh Shiplett

NBER Working Paper, September 2016

Strong versions of the set point hypothesis argue that subjective well-being measures reflect each individual’s own personality and that deviations from that set point will tend to be short-lived, rendering them poor measures of the quality of life. International migration provides an excellent test of this hypothesis, since life circumstances and average subjective well-being differ greatly among countries. Life satisfaction scores for immigrants to Canada from up to 100 source countries are compared to those in the countries where they were born. With or without various adjustments for selection effects, the average levels and distributions of life satisfaction scores among immigrants mimic those of other Canadians rather than those in their source countries and regions. This supports other evidence that subjective life evaluations, especially when averaged across individuals, are primarily driven by life circumstances, and respond correspondingly when those circumstances change.


Differences in Empathic Concern and Perspective Taking Across 63 Countries

William Chopik, Ed O’Brien & Sara Konrath

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Cultural practices socialize people to relate to others in different ways. One critical way in which these interpersonal bonds are formed and maintained is via empathy, our emotional reactivity toward others’ experiences. However, the extent to which individuals from different cultures vary in their dispositional empathy, and the correlates of these differences, are relatively unknown. Thus, the current study explored cultural variation in empathy, and how this variation is related to psychological characteristics and prosocial behavior across cultures. Evidence from an original sample of 104,365 adults across 63 countries reveals that higher empathy countries also have higher levels of collectivism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-esteem, emotionality, subjective well-being, and prosocial behavior. These findings reveal that empathy is situated within a broader nomological network of other psychological characteristics, emotional expression and experiences, and prosocial behavior across cultures. The current study expands our understanding about how psychological characteristics vary across cultures and how these characteristics can manifest in broader national indicators of prosocial behavior.


Cross-Cultural Similarities and Differences in the Experience of Awe

Pooya Razavi et al.

Emotion, forthcoming

Current research on awe is limited to Western cultures. Thus, whether the measurement, frequency, and consequences of awe will replicate across non-Western cultures remains unanswered. To address this gap, we validated the dispositional awe scale (Shiota, Keltner, & John, 2006) in 4 countries (United States, Iran, Malaysia, and Poland; N = 1,173) with extensive variations in cultural values (i.e., power distance) and personality profiles (i.e., extraversion and openness). Multigroup factor analyses demonstrated that, across all cultures, a 3-factor model that treats awe, amusement, and pride as 3 unique emotions is superior to a single-factor model that clusters all 3 emotions together. Structurally, the scales of awe, amusement and pride were invariant across all countries. Furthermore, we found significant country-level differences in dispositional awe, with the largest discrepancy between the United States and Iran (d = 0.79); these differences are not likely due to cultural response biases. Results are discussed in terms of possible explanations for country-level differences and suggestions for future research.


Intentional Sin and Accidental Virtue? Cultural Differences in Moral Systems Influence Perceived Intentionality

Cory Clark et al.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Indians and U.S. Americans view harmful actions as morally wrong, but Indians are more likely than U.S. Americans to perceive helping behaviors as moral imperatives. We utilize this cultural variability in moral belief systems to test whether and how moral considerations influence perceptions of intentionality (as suggested by theories of folk psychology). Four experiments found that Indians attribute more intentionality than U.S. Americans for helpful but not harmful (Studies 1–4) or neutral side effects (Studies 2 and 3). Also, cross-cultural differences in intentionality judgments for positive actions reflect stronger praise motives (Study 3), and stronger devotion to religious beliefs and practices among Hindus (Study 4). These results provide the first direct support for the claim that features of moral belief systems influence folk psychology, and further suggest that the influence is not inherently asymmetrical; motivation to either blame or praise can influence judgments of intentionality.


The fear gasping face as a threat display in a Melanesian society

Carlos Crivelli et al.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Theory and research show that humans attribute both emotions and intentions to others on the basis of facial behavior: A gasping face can be seen as showing “fear” and intent to submit. The assumption that such interpretations are pancultural derives largely from Western societies. Here, we report two studies conducted in an indigenous, small-scale Melanesian society with considerable cultural and visual isolation from the West: the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. Our multidisciplinary research team spoke the vernacular and had extensive prior fieldwork experience. In study 1, Trobriand adolescents were asked to attribute emotions, social motives, or both to a set of facial displays. Trobrianders showed a mixed and variable attribution pattern, although with much lower agreement than studies of Western samples. Remarkably, the gasping face (traditionally considered a display of fear and submission in the West) was consistently matched to two unpredicted categories: anger and threat. In study 2, adolescents were asked to select the face that was threatening; Trobrianders chose the “fear” gasping face whereas Spaniards chose an “angry” scowling face. Our findings, consistent with functional approaches to animal communication and observations made on threat displays in small-scale societies, challenge the Western assumption that “fear” gasping faces uniformly express fear or signal submission across cultures.


Cultural immersion alters emotion perception: Neurophysiological evidence from Chinese immigrants to Canada

Pan Liu, Simon Rigoulot & Marc Pell

Social Neuroscience, forthcoming

To explore how cultural immersion modulates emotion processing, this study examined how Chinese immigrants to Canada process multisensory emotional expressions, which were compared to existing data from two groups, Chinese and North Americans. Stroop and Oddball paradigms were employed to examine different stages of emotion processing. The Stroop task presented face–voice pairs expressing congruent/incongruent emotions and participants actively judged the emotion of one modality while ignoring the other. A significant effect of cultural immersion was observed in the immigrants’ behavioral performance, which showed greater interference from to-be-ignored faces, comparable with what was observed in North Americans. However, this effect was absent in their N400 data, which retained the same pattern as the Chinese. In the Oddball task, where immigrants passively viewed facial expressions with/without simultaneous vocal emotions, they exhibited a larger visual MMN for faces accompanied by voices, again mirroring patterns observed in Chinese. Correlation analyses indicated that the immigrants’ living duration in Canada was associated with neural patterns (N400 and visual mismatch negativity) more closely resembling North Americans. Our data suggest that in multisensory emotion processing, adopting to a new culture first leads to behavioral accommodation followed by alterations in brain activities, providing new evidence on human’s neurocognitive plasticity in communication.


Culture as automatic processes for making meaning: Spontaneous trait inferences

Yuki Shimizu, Hajin Lee & James Uleman

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Culture shapes how we interpret behavior, symbols, customs, and more. Its operation is largely implicit, unnoticed until we encounter other cultures. Therefore deep cultural differences should be most evident in automatic processes for interpreting events, including behavior. In two studies, we compared American and Japanese undergraduates' spontaneous (unintended and unconscious) trait inferences (STIs) from behavior descriptions. Both groups made STIs but Japanese made fewer. More important, estimates of the controlled (C) and automatic (A) components of their recall performance showed no differences on C, but A was greater for Americans. Thus westerners' greater reliance on traits, in intentional and spontaneous impressions, may reflect cultural differences in automatic processes for making and recalling meaning. The advantages of locating cultural differences in automatic processes are discussed.


Do Easterners and Westerners Differ in Visual Cognition? A Preregistered Examination of Three Visual Cognition Tasks

Nicole Hakim et al.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

When performing cognitive tasks, Easterners often process information more holistically and contextually than Westerners. This is often taken as evidence for fundamental differences in basic cognition, including attention and perception. Yet, evidence for such basic cognitive differences is inconsistent, many studies are based on small samples, and few have been replicated. We report a preregistered replication of three prominent findings of cultural differences in visual cognition, testing a substantially larger sample than the original studies. Our comparisons of American and Asian International students living in the United States provided relatively little evidence for robust and consistent cultural differences in global/local biases, relative and absolute length judgments, or change detection performance. Although we observed some differences in change detection performance when comparing Chinese to American students, those differences were inconsistent across measures. We discuss the need for larger scale replications that adequately control for the testing context and demand characteristics.


Cultural Variations in Reasons for Advice Seeking

Li-Jun Ji et al.

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Five studies examined cultural differences in reasons for advice-seeking behaviors. Content analyses in Study 1A and self-ratings in Study 1B consistently revealed that Euro-Canadians were more likely than East Asians (mainly Chinese) to seek advice for informational reasons, whereas East Asians were more likely than Euro-Canadians to seek advice for relational reasons. Study 2A showed that Chinese displayed a higher level of relationship concern than Euro-Canadians in deciding from whom to seek advice in a decision dilemma. Study 2B found that, although Chinese and Euro-Canadians did not differ from each other on willingness to pay for informational advice, Chinese were willing to pay more for building a relationship with the advisor through advice seeking than Euro-Canadians were. Study 3 explored how the advice giver might perceive an advice seeker in terms of their competence and the closeness of their relationship after advice was sought for various reasons. We found that relationally oriented advice seeking increased the perceived competence of the advice seeker among Chinese more than among Euro-Canadians. Information-oriented advice seeking increased the perceived closeness between the advice seeker and advice giver among Chinese more than among Euro-Canadians. Implications for other aspects of advice exchange are discussed.


Sociocultural Influences on Moral Judgments: East–West, Male–Female, and Young–Old

Karina Arutyunova, Yuri Alexandrov & Marc Hauser

Frontiers in Psychology, September 2016

Gender, age, and culturally specific beliefs are often considered relevant to observed variation in social interactions. At present, however, the scientific literature is mixed with respect to the significance of these factors in guiding moral judgments. In this study, we explore the role of each of these factors in moral judgment by presenting the results of a web-based study of Eastern (i.e., Russia) and Western (i.e., USA, UK, Canada) subjects, male and female, and young and old. Participants (n = 659) responded to hypothetical moral scenarios describing situations where sacrificing one life resulted in saving five others. Though men and women from both types of cultures judged (1) harms caused by action as less permissible than harms caused by omission, (2) means-based harms as less permissible than side-effects, and (3) harms caused by contact as less permissible than by non-contact, men in both cultures delivered more utilitarian judgments (save the five, sacrifice one) than women. Moreover, men from Western cultures were more utilitarian than Russian men, with no differences observed for women. In both cultures, older participants delivered less utilitarian judgments than younger participants. These results suggest that certain core principles may mediate moral judgments across different societies, implying some degree of universality, while also allowing a limited range of variation due to sociocultural factors.


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