Local Variation

Kevin Lewis

April 30, 2020

The deep historical roots of modern culture: A comparative perspective
Gerard Roland
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


This paper presents evidence showing that there have been since antiquity two opposed types of institutional systems: one resembling central planning and present in ancient China, ancient Egypt, the Inca Empire and other territorial states, and another one with strong market institutions, protection of property rights present mostly in city-states, not just in the Mediterranean but throughout the world. Evidence is presented that these institutional differences dating back to the antiquity are shaped by special geographical conditions. These institutional differences can be seen to be at the root of the two cultural systems in today's world: individualism and collectivism. These cultural differences have effects on economic performance and institutions in today's world.

The global ecology of differentiation between us and them
Evert Van de Vliert
Nature Human Behaviour, March 2020, Pages 270–278


Humans distinguish between we-groups and they-groups, such as relatives versus strangers and higher-ups versus lower-downs, thereby creating crucial preconditions for favouring their own groups while discriminating against others. Reported here is the finding that the extent of differentiation between us and them varies along latitude rather than longitude. In geographically isolated preindustrial societies, intergroup differentiation already peaked at the equator and tapered off towards the poles, while being negligibly related to longitude (observation study 1). Contemporary societies have evolved even stronger latitudinal gradients of intergroup differentiation (survey study 2 around 1970) and discrimination (mixed-method study 3 around 2010). The geography of contemporary differentiation and discrimination can be partially predicted by tropical climate stress (warm winters, hot summers and irregular rainfall), largely mediated by the interplay of pathogen stress and agricultural subsistence (explanatory study 4). The findings accumulate into an index of intergroup discrimination by inhabitants of 222 countries (integrative study 5).

The biogeography of human diversity in life history strategy
Aurelio José Figueredo, Steven Hertler & Mateo Peñaherrera-Aguirre
Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming


Controversial theories have been advanced (e.g., Rushton, 1985, 2000) relating “race” to human life history strategy: (a) different human populations (“races”) evolved in different physical and community ecologies; (b) these ecologies should at least partially determine the selective pressures shaping the evolution of human life history strategies in different parts of the world; ergo (c) different human populations (“races”) should be associated with different modal life history strategies. Although the argument seems plausible in its stark logical form, there were several limitations in operationalization: (a) the traditional “Big Three Races” used (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid) do not correspond very closely to the five or six major population clusters identified by modern human genetics; (b) these “races” are neither discrete nor mutually exclusive, having many zones of overlap and interbreeding, making geographical boundaries fuzzy and imprecise; (c) fixing the “race” issue will still not directly address the fundamental premise of the theory that human life history strategy is largely determined by ecological factors. We therefore divided a sample of 141 national polities into zoogeographical regions instead of conventionally defined “races.” We only used regions for this analysis that were still inhabited mostly by the aboriginal populations that existed there prior to the 15th century AD. Although obtained by different procedures than those used originally by Rushton, these produced results that were surprisingly convergent with the basic premise underlying the original hypotheses.

Economic Origins of Cultural Norms: The Case of Animal Husbandry and Bastardy
Christoph Eder & Martin Halla
European Economic Review, forthcoming


This paper explores the historical origins of the cultural norm regarding illegitimacy (formerly known as bastardy) in the context of the Habsburg Empire. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural production structures influenced the historical illegitimacy ratio, and have a lasting effect until today. We show that regions that focused in pre-industrial periods on animal husbandry (as compared to crop farming) had significantly higher illegitimacy ratios in the past, and female descendants of these societies are still more likely to approve illegitimacy and give birth outside of marriage today. To establish causality, we exploit for Austria, within an IV approach, variation in the local agricultural suitability, which determined the historical dominance of animal husbandry. Since differences in the agricultural production structure are completely obsolete in today’s economy, we suggest interpreting the persistence in revealed and stated preferences as a cultural norm. Complementary evidence shows that this norm is passed down through generations, and the family is the most important transmission channel. Our findings are one example for the more general phenomenon that cultural norms can be shaped by economic conditions, and may persist, even if economic conditions become irrelevant.

Who emphasizes positivity? An exploration of emotion values in people of Latino, Asian, and European heritage living in the United States
Nicole Senft et al.
Emotion, forthcoming


Emotion values vary within and between individualistic and collectivistic cultural contexts. The form of collectivism prevalent in Latin America emphasizes simpatía, a cultural model that stresses the relational benefits of positivity but also the costs of negativity. This model was predicted to engender a pattern of emotion values distinct from that of the more commonly studied collectivist group, people of Asian heritage (PAH), among whom an emphasis on moderating positive and negative emotions is typically observed, and from people of European heritage (PEH), among whom authenticity in emotions is typically valued. College students of Latino (n = 659), Asian (n = 446), and European (n = 456) heritage living in the United States completed a study examining positive and negative emotion values. Mixed-model analysis of variance that included interactions among culture, emotion valence (positive, negative), value type (desirability, appropriateness), and response type (experience, expression) suggested distinct patterns of emotion values across groups. People of Latino heritage (PLH) rated positive emotions as more desirable and appropriate to experience and express than PAH (ps < .001) but less desirable and appropriate to experience and express than PEH (ps ≤ .001). PLH also rated negative emotions as more undesirable (ps < .001) but similarly inappropriate to experience and express (ps > .05) compared with PAH and as similarly undesirable (ps > .05) but more inappropriate to experience (p < .001) compared with PEH. The emotion-value pattern that emerged was largely consistent with simpatía for PLH and provides new evidence of similarity and variation in emotion values in three distinct contexts.

Historical Change in the Moral Foundations of Political Persuasion
Nicholas Buttrick, Robert Moulder & Shigehiro Oishi
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


How have attempts at political persuasion changed over time? Using nine corpora dating back through 1789, containing over 7 million words of speech (1,666 documents in total), covering three different countries, plus the entire Google nGram corpus, we find that language relating to togetherness permanently crowded out language relating to duties and obligations in the persuasive speeches of politicians during the early 20th century. This shift is temporally predicted by a rise in Western nationalism and the mass movement of people from more rural to more urban areas and is unexplained by changes in language, private political speech, or nonmoral persuasion. We theorize that the emergence of the modern state in the 1920s had psychopolitical consequences for the ways that people understood and communicated their relationships with their government, which was then reflected in the levers of persuasion chosen by political elites.

The influence of honor threats on goal delay and goal derailment: A comparison of Turkey, Southern US, and Northern US
Ceren Günsoy et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Honor means having a good reputation (e.g., being known as an honest person) and self-respect (e.g., being proud of one's own competence). In honor cultures (e.g., Turkey, Southern U.S.), people are more sensitive to threats to their moral reputation (e.g., being called a liar) than in dignity cultures (e.g., Northern U.S.), and they respond more strongly to these threats to restore their damaged reputation. Taking a goal conflict approach, we propose that among members of honor cultures, restoration of honor in response to a morality threat can become a superordinate goal, and can result in the neglect or derailment of other goals. In two experiments (n = 941), participants from Turkey (a non-Western honor culture), the U.S. South (a Western honor culture), and the U.S. North (a dignity culture) received a morality threat (accusation of dishonesty), a competence threat (accusation of poor writing ability), or neutral feedback. As predicted, participants from honor cultures, but not the dignity culture, were more likely to delay their subsequent goals after receiving a threat to their moral reputation (vs. competence threat or neutral conditions; Study 1). Moreover, Turkish participants were more likely to display goal derailment after receiving a morality threat compared to a competence threat, but there was no difference in responses to the two types of threat among the U.S. Northerners or Southerners (Study 2). This research is the first to examine honor using a goal conflict framework and to conduct laboratory experiments in two honor cultures.

Culture and Gender Allocation of Tasks: Source Country Characteristics and the Division of Non-market Work among US Immigrants
Francine Blau et al.
NBER Working Paper, April 2020


There is a well-known gender difference in time allocation within the household, which has important implications for gender differences in labor market outcomes. We ask how malleable this gender difference in time allocation is to culture. In particular, we ask if US immigrants allocate tasks differently depending upon the characteristics of the source countries from which they emigrated. Using data from the 2003-2017 waves of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), we find that first-generation immigrants, both women and men, from source countries with more gender equality (as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index) allocate tasks more equally, while those from less gender equal source countries allocate tasks more traditionally. These results are robust to controls for immigration cohort, years since migration, and other own and spouse characteristics. There is also some indication of an effect of parent source country gender equality for second-generation immigrants, particularly for second-generation men with children. Our findings suggest that broader cultural factors do influence the gender division of labor in the household.

Culture and Patterns of Reciprocity: The Role of Exchange Type, Regulatory Focus, and Emotions
Yingli Deng et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Reciprocity is a fundamental mechanism for sustained social relationships. Escalation-based theories suggest that reciprocity intensifies over time. In contrast, equity-based theories propose that people reciprocate behaviors in kind. We reconcile these conflicting perspectives by examining social exchanges across different cultural contexts. Using three complementary experiments, we investigate when, how, and why individuals in East Asian settings and those in North American settings differentially reciprocate positive versus negative behaviors over time. Study 1 demonstrated that in positively framed exchanges (i.e., giving) Americans escalated their reciprocity, but Singaporeans reciprocated in kind. However, in negatively framed exchanges (i.e., taking), Singaporeans escalated their reciprocity, but Americans reciprocated in kind. Study 2 replicated the results using Hong Kongers and showed that cultural differences in regulatory focus were associated with specific emotions (i.e., anxiety and happiness), which then escalated reciprocity. To establish causality, Study 3 manipulated regulatory focus within one culture and replicated the pattern of results.

The gray matter volume of the temporoparietal junction varies across cultures: A moderating role of the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4)
Shinobu Kitayama et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming


Prior work shows that compared to European Americans, East Asians show an enhanced propensity to take the perspective of another person. In the current work, we tested whether this cultural difference might be reflected in the gray matter (GM) volume of the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), a brain region selectively implicated in perspective taking and mentalizing. We also explored whether the cultural difference in the TPJ GM volume might be moderated by dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) exon 3 variable-number tandem repeat polymorphism. Structural magnetic resonance imaging of 66 European Americans and 66 East Asian-born Asians were subjected to voxel-based morphometry. It was observed that the GM volume of the right TPJ was greater among East Asians than among European Americans. Moreover, this cultural difference was significantly more pronounced among carriers of the 7- or 2-repeat allele of DRD4 than among the non-carriers of these alleles. Our findings contribute to the growing evidence that culture can shape the brain.

Evolutionary dynamics of culturally transmitted, fertility-reducing traits
Dominik Wodarz et al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, April 2020


Human populations in many countries have undergone a phase of demographic transition, characterized by a major reduction in fertility at a time of increased resource availability. A key stylized fact is that the reduction in fertility is preceded by a reduction in mortality and a consequent increase in population density. Various theories have been proposed to account for the demographic transition process, including maladaptation, increased parental investment in fewer offspring, and cultural evolution. None of these approaches, including formal cultural evolutionary models of the demographic transitions, have addressed a possible direct causal relationship between a reduction in mortality and the subsequent decline in fertility. We provide mathematical models in which low mortality favours the cultural selection of low-fertility traits. This occurs because reduced mortality slows turnover in the model, which allows the cultural transmission advantage of low-fertility traits to outrace their reproductive disadvantage. For mortality to be a crucial determinant of outcome, a cultural transmission bias is required where slow reproducers exert higher social influence. Computer simulations of our models that allow for exogenous variation in the death rate can reproduce the central features of the demographic transition process, including substantial reductions in fertility within only one to three generations. A model assuming continuous evolution of reproduction rates through imitation errors predicts fertility to fall below replacement levels if death rates are sufficiently low. This can potentially explain the very low preferred family sizes in Western Europe.

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