Category: Cross-cultural

We Think We’ve Changed More In The Past Than We Will Change In The Future — And Americans Seem Particularly Susceptible To This Illusion

By Emma Young

Think about what you were like 10 years ago. How have you changed, in terms of values, life satisfaction and personality? Now picture yourself 10 years in the future. Do you think you’ll be just as different then as you were a decade in the past?

When asked about past vs future change, most people — no matter what their age — report more change over a period of time in the past than they predict for the same period into the future. This “End of History Illusion” has been well-documented, at least, among WEIRD populations. Now Brian W. Haas at the University of Georgia, US, and Kazufumi Omura at Yamagata University, Japan, report some cultural differences in susceptibility to it. Their paper, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, also provides some intriguing hints as to why those differences exist.

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Around The World, People Co-operate More Willingly With Others From Their Own Country

By Matthew Warren

Many of the world’s most pressing problems require global co-operation. If we are to combat climate change or contain the spread of devastating diseases, for instance, we need to work across borders and share resources.

So a new study in Nature Communications doesn’t make for encouraging reading. Using a common paradigm for studying co-operation, Angelo Romano from the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and colleagues look at how more than 18,000 participants from 42 different countries co-operate with people from their own nation and elsewhere. They find that in every single country, participants show national parochialism: they co-operate more readily with people from their own country than with others.

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Passion Is Linked To Greater Academic Achievement — But In Some Cultures More Than Others

By Emily Reynolds

“Passion” is a word that often crops up on job descriptions and in interviews; articles proliferate online explaining how to adequately express your passion to potential employers. On the whole, passionate people — those who have a strong interest in a particular topic, who are confident in themselves and who dedicate themselves to what they’re doing — are thought of in a positive light, and considered likely to achieve their goals.

But when it comes to predicting achievement, how important is passion really? According to Xingyu Li from Stanford University and colleagues, writing in PNAS, passion may be less important in certain cultures — and the fact that passion is often seen as the key to achievement may reflect a “distinctly Western model of motivation”.

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These Two Factors Are Linked To The Experience Of Otherworldly Phenomena Across Cultures And Religions

By Emily Reynolds

Hearing voices is often associated with mental illness. But this belief doesn’t always reflect reality, with much research suggesting that many people who hear voices experience no distress and have never had contact with psychiatric services. Religious hearing of voices also has a tradition outside of what we might consider “pathological”: St. Augustine’s recognition of the voice of God, to use one very famous example.

Why do some of us hear otherworldly voices, while others don’t? According to Stanford University’s Tanya Marie Luhrmann and team, it could be related to two factors: “absorption” and “porosity”, both of which concern our beliefs and experiences about how the mind interacts with the world. In a study in PNAS that spanned a range of faiths and cultures, the team examined exactly how porosity and absorption can facilitate different kinds of spiritual experience.

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Episode 23: Whose Psychology Is It Anyway? Making Psychological Research More Representative

This is Episode 23 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. Download here.

In this episode, Emily Reynolds, staff writer at Research Digest, explores modern psychology’s relationship with race and representation. It’s well-known that psychology has a generalisability problem, with studies overwhelmingly using so-called “WEIRD” participants: those who are Western and educated and from industrialised, rich and democratic societies. But how does that shape the assumptions we make about participants of different racial identities or cultures? And how can top-tier psychology journals improve diversity among not only participants but also authors and editors?

Our guests, in order of appearance, are Dr Bobby Cheon, Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Dr Steven O. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

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Here’s How Parents’ Reactions To School Performance Influence Their Children’s Wellbeing

By Emma Young

What do you do if your child comes home with a lower score on a test than you both expected? Do you praise their efforts and focus on what they got right? Or do you home in on the answers that they got wrong, hoping this will help them to do better in future?

Research shows that the first, “success-oriented” response is more common in the US than in China, where parents more often opt for “failure-oriented” responses instead. Recent studies in both countries have found that success-oriented responses tend to encourage psychological wellbeing but not necessarily academic success, whereas failure-oriented responses can foster academic performance, but with a cost to the child’s wellbeing.

Jun Wei at Tsinghua University, China, and colleagues wondered what might drive these observed relationships: do different response styles lead children to form different concepts about what their parents want for them — and is this what produces the opposing impacts on wellbeing? In a new paper, published in Developmental Psychology, the team report some intriguing answers to these questions.

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Babies Relax When Listening To Unfamiliar Lullabies From Other Cultures

By Emma Young

The controversial idea that there are universals in the ways we use music received a boost in 2018, with the finding that people from 60 different countries were pretty good at judging whether a totally unfamiliar piece of music from another culture was intended to soothe a baby or to be danced to. Now, new research involving some of the same team has revealed that foreign lullabies that babies have never heard before work to relax them. 

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People From Japan May Be Less Prone Than Americans To Some Of The Harmful Health-Related Effects Of Negative Emotions

By Emma Young

What’s your view on feelings of sadness, nervousness or hopelessness? Are they harmful emotions that we should strive to avoid feeling — an opinion that is widely held in the West? Or is natural, even helpful, to feel them from time to time — a perspective commonly found in Japan?

Previous studies have found that cultural attitudes to our emotions affect our health. In Japan, for example, greater reported happiness isn’t associated with better health, in contrast to findings from the US. Also, regular experience of high-energy, high-arousal states is associated with better health in the US, but not Japan, where calm, quiet states are highly valued. 

Now a study published in the journal Emotion reveals that our attitudes to negative emotions, such as sadness and hopelessness, matter, too. Previous studies have linked experience of these emotions to increased inflammation and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and even death among Americans, but not Japanese people. So Jiyoung Park at the University of Texas at Dallas and her colleagues set out to explore whether differences in stress might explain this. If, in contrast to Japanese people, Americans view the experience of negative emotions as a failure of self-control, and feel stress as a result, this could explain the links between these kinds of emotions and poorer health. 

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Seeing Red Or Feeling Blue? People Around The World Make Similar Associations Between Colours And Emotions

By Emma Young

As an English-speaker, I might “see red” with anger, go “green” with envy or, on a bad day, “feel blue”. To me, it seems natural to associate certain colours with particular emotions — but is the same true for people around the world? And if so, do we all make the same emotion/colour matchings? These questions have been investigated in a new study, published in Psychological Science, which has produced some fascinating results.

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Which Human Experiences Are Universal?

By Emma Young

As everyone knows, American undergrads are not representative of all humanity — and the perils of drawing conclusions about people in general from WEIRD studies have been well-publicised. To really understand which human experiences are universal, and which are a product of our individual cultures, we need big, well-conducted studies of people from many different cultures. Fortunately, there are studies like this. Here are some of their most fascinating insights…

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