We are the world

Kevin Lewis

December 26, 2012

How Universal Is the Big Five? Testing the Five-Factor Model of Personality Variation Among Forager-Farmers in the Bolivian Amazon

Michael Gurven et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

The five-factor model (FFM) of personality variation has been replicated across a range of human societies, suggesting the FFM is a human universal. However, most studies of the FFM have been restricted to literate, urban populations, which are uncharacteristic of the majority of human evolutionary history. We present the first test of the FFM in a largely illiterate, indigenous society. Tsimane forager-horticulturalist men and women of Bolivia (n = 632) completed a translation of the 44-item Big Five Inventory (Benet-Martínez & John, 1998), a widely used metric of the FFM. We failed to find robust support for the FFM, based on tests of (a) internal consistency of items expected to segregate into the Big Five factors, (b) response stability of the Big Five, (c) external validity of the Big Five with respect to observed behavior, (d) factor structure according to exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and (e) similarity with a U.S. target structure based on Procrustes rotation analysis. Replication of the FFM was not improved in a separate sample of Tsimane adults (n = 430), who evaluated their spouses on the Big Five Inventory. Removal of reverse-scored items that may have elicited response biases produced factors suggestive of Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, but fit to the FFM remained poor. Response styles may covary with exposure to education, but we found no better fit to the FFM among Tsimane who speak Spanish or have attended school. We argue that Tsimane personality variation displays 2 principal factors that may reflect socioecological characteristics common to small-scale societies. We offer evolutionary perspectives on why the structure of personality variation may not be invariant across human societies.


Contextualism as an Important Facet of Individualism-Collectivism: Personhood Beliefs Across 37 National Groups

Ellinor Owe et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, January 2013, Pages 24-45

Beliefs about personhood are understood to be a defining feature of individualism-collectivism (I-C), but they have been insufficiently explored, given the emphasis of research on values and self-construals. We propose the construct of contextualism, referring to beliefs about the importance of context in understanding people, as a facet of cultural collectivism. A brief measure was developed and refined across 19 nations (Study 1: N = 5,241), showing good psychometric properties for cross-cultural use and correlating well at the nation level with other supposed facets and indicators of I-C. In Study 2 (N = 8,652), nation-level contextualism predicted ingroup favoritism, corruption, and differential trust of ingroup and outgroup members, while controlling for other facets of I-C, across 35 nations. We conclude that contextualism is an important part of cultural collectivism. This highlights the importance of beliefs alongside values and self-representations and contributes to a wider understanding of cultural processes.


Chinese Socialization and Emotion Talk Between Mothers and Children in Native and Immigrant Chinese Families

Qi Wang
Asian American Journal of Psychology, forthcoming

This study takes a narrative approach to examine parenting in changing cultural contexts. It focuses on narrative practices pertaining to emotion socialization in Chinese families in China and first generation immigrant Chinese families in the United States. Mothers were asked to talk with their 3-year-old children at home about two shared past events and a story (118 mother-child dyads; 55 girls and 63 boys). Mother-child emotion talk during the tasks was analyzed along the dimensions of attributions (i.e., utterances ascribing an emotional state or reaction) and explanations (i.e., utterances explaining the causes or consequences of an emotion). Immigrant Chinese mothers seemed more "Chinese" in their emotion talk; they attributed fewer emotions to their children during memory sharing and yet ascribed more emotions to the story protagonist during storytelling, and they less frequently explained the causes or consequences of emotions in both tasks, compared with native Chinese mothers who exhibited a more Western pattern of interaction with their children. The findings highlight the dynamic nature of culture in shaping parenting and child development pertaining to emotion. Limitations of the study are discussed and future research is suggested.


The expatriate-creativity hypothesis: A longitudinal field test

Anthony Fee & Sidney Gray
Human Relations, December 2012, Pages 1515-1538

While prior research suggests that the cognitive changes triggered by cross-cultural experiences can enhance an individual's creative-thinking abilities, this is yet to be verified through empirical field research. We draw on schema theory, and the principle of psychological dissonance experienced during cultural adaptation, to argue that expatriates undergo wholesale cognitive changes that can lead to enhanced creative-thinking abilities. We test this hypothesis by measuring changes in the creative-thinking abilities of a sample of expatriates over the first 12 months of their placement. When compared with a control group of non-expatriates, the expatriates showed significant increases in overall creative-thinking abilities and cognitive flexibility, although not originality, elaboration, or ideational fluency.


Wishing for Change in Japan and Canada

Romin Tafarodi et al.
Journal of Happiness Studies, December 2012, Pages 969-983

Japanese and Canadian university students were compared on the changes they wanted in their lives. Contrary to their characterization as self-effacingly relational and group-minded, Japanese were no more likely than Canadians to wish for social or collective goods. Rather, Japanese were more likely than Canadians to wish for money or material goods, and less likely than Canadians to wish for better family relations, increased self-understanding, and improved academic performance. Whether these findings reflect dissimilar cultural priorities, unequal opportunities and constraints, or both, is discussed.


‘German Angst' vs ‘Danish Easy-going'? On the Role and Relevance of Insecurity and Uncertainty in the Lives of Freelancers in Denmark and Germany

Barbara Fersch
Sociology, December 2012, Pages 1125-1139

Highly flexible workers such as freelancers are particularly exposed to insecurity. In this article I explore the role and relevance of insecurity and uncertainty in the lives of freelancers in Denmark and Germany and especially the marked difference I have found in freelancers' narratives along national lines. Whereas insecurity and its related fear and anxiety played a huge role in the German interviews (‘German Angst'), the Danish freelancers attached less importance to the topic of insecurity and showed almost no sign of related anxiety (‘Danish Easy-going'). Some reasons for this can be found in the different social security backgrounds and welfare state programmes of the two countries, but these differences cannot explain the very different ways of talking about and dealing with the topic. Therefore, I suggest that the differences can be understood in the context of trust as a multi-dimensional concept.


Mortality Salience and Symbols of Cultural Worldview Affect the Desirability of a Stressful Job: The Ironic Consequences of Terror Management

Brittney Wirth-Petrik & Kim Guenther
Psychological Reports, December 2012, Pages 717-723

In a study of terror management theory, participants first responded to prompts asking them to imagine their own death or dental pain and later rated the desirability of a generic job described explicitly as extremely stressful. The job description included either an American or foreign company logo. As predicted by terror management theory, the participants shown an American logo ironically desired the stressful job more having been prompted with reminders of death than with reminders of dental pain. The study is the first to examine terror management theory's prediction of the influence of symbols of cultural worldview on health-related decisions. The authors discuss possible implications of the findings for making unintentionally stress-inducing decisions and for public health campaigns.


Cultural Differences and Switching of In-Group Sharing Behavior Between an American (Facebook) and a Chinese (Renren) Social Networking Site

Lin Qiu, Han Lin & Angela Leung
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, January 2013, Pages 106-121

Prior research has documented cultural dimensions that broadly characterize between-culture variations in Western and East Asian societies and that bicultural individuals can flexibly change their behaviors in response to different cultural contexts. In this article, we studied cultural differences and behavioral switching in the context of the fast emerging, naturally occurring online social networking, using both self-report measures and content analyses of online activities on two highly popular platforms, Facebook and Renren (the "Facebook of China"). Results showed that while Renren and Facebook are two technically similar platforms, the Renren culture is perceived as more collectivistic than the Facebook culture. Furthermore, we presented evidence for the first time that users who are members of both online cultures flexibly switch and adapt their in-group sharing behaviors in response to the online community in which they are: They perform more benevolent in-group sharing when they participate in the Renren community and less so when they participate in the Facebook community. We discussed both the theoretical and methodological implications of the current research.


The tyranny of choice: A cross-cultural investigation of maximizing-satisficing effects on well-being

Arne Roets, Barry Schwartz & Yanjun Guan
Judgment and Decision Making, November 2012, Pages 689-704

The present research investigated the relationship between individual differences in maximizing versus satisficing (i.e., seeking to make the single best choice, rather than a choice that is merely good enough) and well-being, in interaction with the society in which an individual lives. Data from three distinct cultural groups (adults), drawn respectively from the U.S. (N=307), Western Europe (N=263), and China (N=218), were analyzed. The results showed that, in societies where choice is abundant (i.e., U.S. and Western Europe), maximizers reported less well-being than satisficers, and this difference was mediated by experienced regret. However, in the non-western society (China), maximizing was unrelated to well-being. Although in China maximizing was associated with more experiences of regret, regret had no substantial relationship to well-being. These patterns also emerged for the individual facets of the maximizing scale, although with a notable difference between the U.S. and Europe for the High Standards facet. It is argued that, in societies where abundant individual choice is highly valued and considered the ultimate route to personal happiness, maximizers' dissatisfaction and regret over imperfect choices is a detrimental factor in well-being, whereas it is a much less crucial determinant of well-being in societies that place less emphasis on choice as the way to happiness.


Cultural Differences in Attitudes Toward Action and Inaction: The Role of Dialecticism

Ethan Zell et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

The current research examined whether nations differ in their attitudes toward action and inaction. It was anticipated that members of dialectical East Asian societies would show a positive association in their attitudes toward action/inaction. However, members of non-dialectical European-American societies were expected to show a negative association in their attitudes toward action/inaction. Young adults in 19 nations completed measures of dialectical thinking and attitudes toward action/inaction. Results from multi-level modeling showed, as predicted, that people from high dialecticism nations reported a more positive association in their attitudes toward action and inaction than people from low dialecticism nations. Furthermore, these findings remained after controlling for cultural differences in individualism-collectivism, neuroticism, gross-domestic product, and response style. Discussion highlights the implications of these findings for action/inaction goals, dialecticism, and culture.


Cultural Adaptation of Visual Attention: Calibration of the Oculomotor Control System in Accordance with Cultural Scenes

Yoshiyuki Ueda & Asuka Komiya
PLoS ONE, November 2012

Previous studies have found that Westerners are more likely than East Asians to attend to central objects (i.e., analytic attention), whereas East Asians are more likely than Westerners to focus on background objects or context (i.e., holistic attention). Recently, it has been proposed that the physical environment of a given culture influences the cultural form of scene cognition, although the underlying mechanism is yet unclear. This study examined whether the physical environment influences oculomotor control. Participants saw culturally neutral stimuli (e.g., a dog in a park) as a baseline, followed by Japanese or United States scenes, and finally culturally neutral stimuli again. The results showed that participants primed with Japanese scenes were more likely to move their eyes within a broader area and they were less likely to fixate on central objects compared with the baseline, whereas there were no significant differences in the eye movements of participants primed with American scenes. These results suggest that culturally specific patterns in eye movements are partly caused by the physical environment.


East-West cultural differences in context-sensitivity are evident in early childhood

Toshie Imada, Stephanie Carlson & Shoji Itakura
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Accumulating evidence suggests that North Americans tend to focus on central objects whereas East Asians tend to pay more attention to contextual information in a visual scene. Although it is generally believed that such culturally divergent attention tendencies develop through socialization, existing evidence largely depends on adult samples. Moreover, no past research has investigated the relation between context-sensitivity and other domains of cognitive development. The present study examined children in the United States and Japan (N = 175, age 4-9 years) to investigate the developmental pattern in context-sensitivity and its relation to executive function. The study found that context-sensitivity increased with age across cultures. Nevertheless, Japanese children showed significantly greater context-sensitivity than American children. Also, context-sensitivity fully mediated the cultural difference in a set-shifting executive function task, which might help explain past findings that East Asian children outperformed their American counterparts on executive function.


Color Preferences Are Not Universal

Chloe Taylor, Alexandra Clifford & Anna Franklin
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Claims of universality pervade color preference research. It has been argued that there are universal preferences for some colors over others (e.g., Eysenck, 1941), universal sex differences (e.g., Hurlbert & Ling, 2007), and universal mechanisms or dimensions that govern these preferences (e.g., Palmer & Schloss, 2010). However, there have been surprisingly few cross-cultural investigations of color preference and none from nonindustrialized societies that are relatively free from the common influence of global consumer culture. Here, we compare the color preferences of British adults to those of Himba adults who belong to a nonindustrialized culture in rural Namibia. British and Himba color preferences are found to share few characteristics, and Himba color preferences display none of the so-called "universal" patterns or sex differences. Several significant predictors of color preference are identified, such as cone-contrast between stimulus and background (Hurlbert & Ling, 2007), the valence of color-associated objects (Palmer & Schloss, 2010), and the colorfulness of the color. However, the relationship of these predictors to color preference was strikingly different for the two cultures. No one model of color preference is able to account for both British and Himba color preferences. We suggest that not only do patterns of color preference vary across individuals and groups but the underlying mechanisms and dimensions of color preference vary as well. The findings have implications for broader debate on the extent to which our perception and experience of color is culturally relative or universally constrained.


Music and movement share a dynamic structure that supports universal expressions of emotion

Beau Sievers et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Music moves us. Its kinetic power is the foundation of human behaviors as diverse as dance, romance, lullabies, and the military march. Despite its significance, the music-movement relationship is poorly understood. We present an empirical method for testing whether music and movement share a common structure that affords equivalent and universal emotional expressions. Our method uses a computer program that can generate matching examples of music and movement from a single set of features: rate, jitter (regularity of rate), direction, step size, and dissonance/visual spikiness. We applied our method in two experiments, one in the United States and another in an isolated tribal village in Cambodia. These experiments revealed three things: (i) each emotion was represented by a unique combination of features, (ii) each combination expressed the same emotion in both music and movement, and (iii) this common structure between music and movement was evident within and across cultures.


Optimism is Universal: Exploring the Presence and Benefits of Optimism in a Representative Sample of the World

Matthew Gallagher, Shane Lopez & Sarah Pressman
Journal of Personality, forthcoming

Objective: Current theories of optimism suggest that the tendency to maintain positive expectations for the future is an adaptive psychological resource associated with improved well-being and physical health, but the majority of previous optimism research has been conducted in industrialized nations. The present study examined 1) whether optimism is universal, 2) what demographic factors predict optimism, and 3) whether optimism is consistently associated with improved subjective well-being and perceived health worldwide.

Method: The present study used representative samples of 142 countries that together represent 95% of the world's population. The total sample of 150,048 individuals had a mean age of 38.28 (SD = 16.85) and approximately equal sex distribution (51.2% female).The relationships between optimism, subjective well-being, and perceived health were examined using hierarchical linear modeling.

Results: Results indicated that most individuals and most countries worldwide are optimistic and that higher levels of optimism are associated with improved subjective well-being and perceived health worldwide.

Conclusions: The present study provides compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon and that the associations between optimism and improved psychological functioning are not limited to industrialized nations.


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