Can We Foresee the Future? Explaining and Predicting Cultural Change | SPSP (Varnum & Grossman)

Igor Grossmann, Michael E. W. Varnum in their roles as; editor of the blog of Society for Personality and Social Psychology) Can We Foresee the Future? Explaining and Predicting Cultural Change; In That Certain Blog; 2017-10-17.

tl;dr → Yes. Betteridge’s Law fails.
ahem → No. Betteridge’s Law holds. Surely no one can know the future, and anyone who says they can is either high or a fool, perhaps both. One can problematize quibble on the epistemology sense of the word “to know,” if you think you have time for that sort of thing.


Michael E. W. Varnum, Igor Grossmann. (2017). Cultural change: The how and the why. In Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/1745691617699971


The promotional build running up to the release of that certain sequel (2017) to the movie Blade Runner (1982) which is in turn based on a short novel by Philip K. Dick entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Doubleday 1968) [Answer: No (whereas Androids, after the Ice Cream Sandwich release, are functionally people too, being as they feel pain and love, as eloquently and forcefully testified by Rutger Hauer in a monologue performed so memorably on that dark & rainy night), again, Betteridge's Law holds, c.f. Jimi Wales' Wiki, Jimi Wales' Wiki].


A means & method for producing new predictions, which is better.

  • Uniqueness.
  • Rigorous
    • Theory-Driven [not Theory-Laden].
    • Testable [falsifiable]
  • Empirical.
    • Documentation
      Whereas sociology is either slow journalism [documentation] or activism [promotion] in service to personal ideals.
    • Repeatable
      Replicatability is not claimed. It’s a best practice for high fidelity journalism.

<quote>What is unique is a rigorous theory-driven attempt to not only document but to test explanations for patterns of societal change empirically </quote>

The enumerated [cultural] changes are features of the ecology [our ecologies].
<quote>This emerging work suggests <snide>asserts</snide> that among the most powerful contributors to cultural changes in areas like individualism, gender equality, and happiness are shifts in essential features of our ecologies.</quote>
This schema was shown in animal behavior; now it is replicated with people [our people].
<quote>The idea that variations in ecological dimensions and cues like scarcity or population density might be linked to behavioral adaptations has been widely explored in animal kingdom, and recently started to gain prominence as a way to explain variations in human behavior.</quote>

  • Ellis, Bianchi, Griskevicius, & Frankenhuis, 2017.
  • Sng, Neuberg, Varnum, & Kenrick, 2017.


  • It’s an “implications” paper:
    <quote>but also has fundamental implications for psychometric assumptions and replicability in psychological science.</quote>
  • <quote>Neither experts nor lay people do much better than chance
    as “proven” in: Tetlock, 2006; Tetlock & Gardner, 2016.</quote>
  • <quote>psychological phenomena unfold within a temporal context,</quote> → <fancier>events occur over spans of time; therefor psychological events occur over spans of time<fancier>,
    the insight is attributed to Kurt Lewin and Lev Vygotsky; unnamed “other theorists.”
  • ngrams, as mentioned in Google Books.
  • cross-lagged statistical models
  • cross-correlation functions
  • tests of Granger causality
  • SES (Socio-Economic Status; i.e. Marx-archetype class.1
  • The Misery Index, of [NAME] Okun.
  • ecological framework
  • big data
  • econometric tools
  • insights from machine learning
  • predictive science of cultural change.
  • emerging science of cultural change
  • predictive psychological science (Yarkoni & Westfall, 2017)


Individualism ↔ Collectivism
A focus on uniqueness and independence and emphasis of self-expression (or not.
Gender Equality
Obvious: equality between the [two] genders, which are named as: Male and Female (Female and Male).
Obvious: that buddhist thing; as evidenced in self-attestation surveys.
The WEIRD Population
The white American middle-class college students.

  • Western,
  • Educated,
  • Industrialized,
  • Rich,
  • Democratic.

References (at least):

  • Joseph Nenrich, Steven J. Heine, Ara Norenzayan; The Weirdest People in the World; In Some Journal, Surely; 2009-03-05; 58 pages (23,703 words).
    Cited herein: Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010.
    Teaser: How representative are experimental findings from American university students? What do we really know about human psychology?


  • Isaac Asimov, boffo.
    Honorific: <quote>the seminal science fiction author — inventor of the fictional discipline of psycho-history.</quote>
  • Gerd Hofstede, documentarian.
  • Kurt Lewin, theorist.
  • Nostradamus; boffo.
    Opus: Quatrains, many years ago.
  • Lev Vygotsky, theorist.



  • individualism,
  • gender equality,
  • happiness.


  • model cultural change
    on a large scale.
  • using data,
    using cross-temporal data
  • using theory or theories,
    using theories derived from behavioral ecology.
  • “can usher in” [what?]
  • a new era in research,
    a new era in research social psychological and personality research.

unclear… if this means more better hard Sci-Fi or more sooth can be said:

  • more voluminous,
  • more accurate,
  • more relevant,
  • more pithy,
  • more cogent,
  • more better prognostications.


Method of Prognostication
  • ecological framework,
  • big data,
  • econometric tools.


far future: 2047 → 2117.


Obtain the Salubrious Result.

  • society,
  • the economy,
  • politics.

Events in the areas of…

  • scientists,
    specifically: behavioral scientists,
  • policy makers,
    specifically: [hired] regulators and [elected] politicians.
  • anyone,
    as such: the laity, the general public.
Charlatans, Experts
  • pundits,
  • economists,
  • intelligence analysts,
    generally, any and all analysts.
Drift, across time, same place
Results in social science are idiosyncratic and perishable. To wit:
<quote>There is no guarantee that the structure of psychological constructs (and their relationship to each other) remains consistent over time – a critical insight for anybody studying individual differences or the interaction of the social context and personality.</quote>
Drift, across time, different places
Results in social science are idiosyncratic to the place and perishable. To wit:
Second, in behavioral and management sciences that focus on cross-cultural comparisons, we need to ensure that our measurements are made contemporaneously.</quote>
Untestable, uninferrable
Documentation practices produces records as evidence; such cannot be used to as inputs to a reasoning process. To wit:
<quote><snip/> for those interested in the ways socio-cultural context impacts human minds, the new field of cultural change enables better tests of theories regarding the origin and evolution of cross-cultural variations than the cross-sectional approaches that are currently standard in the field. Time series data permit stronger inferences regarding the causes of cultural variation than is possible from datasets where putative causes and outcomes are measured only once and at the same time.</quote>
Implications, there are implications; this is important work.
<quote><snip/> have some implications for debates about replicability.
This is not to say that cultural change is likely the explanation for many or most failures to replicate previous findings, but when there is a large temporal remove between the original studies and replication attempts, it may be wise to consider this when interpreting any discrepancies or changes in effect sizes.

  • Greenfield, 2017; Varnum & Grossmann, 2017.
Drift, invalid population sampling
Whereas psychology “research” is done on The WEIRD Population, the results are incorrect.
<quote>Most samples we collect are “WEIRD,” consisting largely of white American middle-class college students who it turns out are not psychologically representative of humanity. But perhaps more importantly emerging insights from the cross-temporal study of psychological processes suggest <snide>assert<snide> that as psychologists, whether we are aware of it or not, we are studying a moving target.


  • Changes in baby naming practices in the US from the 1880’s to the 2010s and predictions for future trends through 2030.
    from Grossmann and Varnum (2015).
  • Voter turnout
  • Twenge & Campbell
  • …others…


Self-esteem, narcissism, and intelligence have increased in Western societies since 1980.
<quote>over the past several decades<quote>

  • Twenge & Campbell, 2001.
  • Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008.
  • Flynn, 1984.
  • Trahan, Stuebing, Fletcher & Hiscock, 2014.
Social capital has declined since [sometime]
…as evidenced in e.g. involvement in civic organizations and voter turn-out.

  • Putnam, 1995.
  • Putnam, 2000.
Gender equality has risen, in “The West,” since 1950.
<quote>over the past 60-70 years.<quote>

  • Varnum & Grossmann, 2016.
Individualist attitudes, practices, and relational patterns have increased in 60+ countries
  • Grossmann & Varnum, 2015.
  • Santos, Varnum & Grossmann, 2017.
Changes in The Environmemt, generalized, cause changes in Behavior, generalized;
This occurs in individuals and composes into groups.
><quote>The idea that variations in ecological dimensions and cues like scarcity or population density might be linked to behavioral adaptations has been widely explored in animal kingdom, and recently started to gain prominence as a way to explain variations in human behavior.</quote>

  • Ellis, Bianchi, Griskevicius, & Frankenhuis, 2017.
  • Sng, Neuberg, Varnum, & Kenrick, 2017.
White-collar employment causes individualism.
White-collar employment correlates with individualism.
<quote><snip/>a shift toward greater affluence and white- (vs. blue) collar occupations was the most robust ecological predictor of levels of individualism over time, further shifts in levels of SES consistently preceded changes in levels of individualism in America – a finding that has since been extended and cross-validated by our team in a study examining the rise of individualism around the globe.</quote>

  • Grossmann & Varnum, 2015.
  • Santos, Varnum, & Grossmann, 2017.
Disease causes sexism.
The disease level cause the sexism level.
Infectious disease level decline causes the gender equaltiy increase.
<quote>It turned out that a decline in levels of infectious disease was the most robust factor predictor of rising gender equality, a finding we were able to replicate in the UK, and in both societies we found evidence that changes in pathogen levels preceded shifts in gender equality</quote>

  • Varnum & Grossmann, 2016.
Happiness has decreased in the United States since 1800.
<quote>Research examining affect in books and newspaper articles over a 200-year span shows a long-term decline in American happiness.</quote>

  • Iliev, Hoover, Dehghani, & Axelrod, 2016.
Misery causes inverse happiness
Whereas well-being is functionally the same as happiness, the Misery Index measures inverse happiness.
<quote>Levels of well-being in [these] studies appeared linked to Okun’s Misery Index, an economic indicator that combines unemployment and inflation rates, consistent with the idea that scarcity or abundance of resources matters for happiness.</quote>

  • Iliev et al., 2016.
Only the level of envy matters.
Whereas well-being is functionally the same as happiness,
and envy being a manifestation of differential happiness,
and happiness decreases as inequality increases;
thus absolute levels of happiness do not matter,
the differences between the happiness levels matters,
the level of envy matters.
<quote>Another study exploring the cause of changes in levels of well-being over time in the US found strong links to levels of economic inequality, suggesting <snide>asserting without proof</snide> that happiness decreases as inequality increases, suggesting<snide>asserting</snide> that not only absolute levels of resources but their distribution in an environment (what behavioral ecologists call “resource patchiness”) help to explain changes in well-being over time.</quote>

  • Oishi, Kesebir, & Diener, 2011.


  • Ellis, B. J., Bianchi, J., Griskevicius, V., & Frankenhuis, W. E. (2017). Beyond risk and protective factors: An adaptation-based approach to resilience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(4), 561–587. DOI:10.1177/1745691617693054
  • Flynn, J. R. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure. Psychological Bulletin, 101(2), 171 – 191. DOI:10.1037/0033-2909.101.2.171.
  • Greenfield, P. M. (2017). Cultural change over time: Why replicability should not be the gold standard in psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(5), 762-771. DOI:10.1177/1745691617707314
  • Grossmann, I. & Varnum, M. E. W. (2015). Social structure, infectious diseases, disasters, secularism, and cultural change in America. Psychological Science, 26(3) 311-324. DOI:10.1177/0956797614563765
  • Henrich, J., Heine, S.J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 62–135. doi:10.1017/S0140525X0999152X
  • Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (revised and expanded). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill I
  • liev, R., Hoover, J., Dehghani, M., & Axelrod, R. (2016). Linguistic positivity in historical texts reflects dynamic environmental and psychological factors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesof the U.S.A, 113(49), 7871-7879. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1612058113
  • Oishi, S., Kesebir, S., & Diener, E. (2011). Income inequality and happiness. Psychological science, 22(9), 1095-1100. DOI:10.1177/0956797611417262
  • Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6(1), 65-78.
  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. In Culture and politics (pp. 223-234). Palgrave Macmillan US.
  • Santos, H. C., Varnum, M. E. W., Grossmann, I. (2017). Global increases in individualism. Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/0956797617700622
  • Sng, O., Neuberg, S. L., Varnum, M. E., & Kenrick, D. T. (2017). The crowded life is a slow life: Population density and life history strategy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(5), 736 754. DOI:10.1037/pspi0000086
  • Tetlock, P. E. (2006). Expert Political Judgment. How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Tetlock, P. E., & Gardner, D. Superforecasting: The art and science of prediction. Broadway Books.
  • Trahan, L. H., Stuebing, K. K., Fletcher, J. M., & Hiscock, M. (2014). The Flynn effect: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140(5), 1332 – 1360. DOI:10.1037/a0037173
  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2001). Age and birth cohort differences in self-esteem: A cross-temporal meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(4), 321-344. DOI:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0504_3
  • Twenge, J. M., Konrath, S., Foster, J. D., Keith Campbell, W., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Egos inflating over time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality, 76(4), 875-902. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00507.x
  • Varnum, M. E. W. & Grossmann, I. (2017). Cultural change: The how and the why. Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/1745691617699971
  • Varnum, M. E. W. & Grossmann, I. (2016). Pathogen prevalence is associated with cultural changes in gender equality. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(0006). doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0003
  • Yarkoni, T., & Westfall, J. A. (2017). Choosing prediction over explanation in psychology: lessons from machine learning. Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/1745691617693393

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A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics | Rentfrow, Gosling, Potter

Peter J. Rentfrow, Samuel D. Gosling, Jeff Potter; A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics; In Perspectives on Psychological Science; 3(5):339–369; 2008; 31 pages.


Volumes of research show that people in different geographic regions differ psychologically. Most of that work converges on the conclusion that there are geographic differences in personality and values, but little attention has been paid to developing an integrative account of how those differences emerge, persist, and become expressed at the geographic level. Drawing from research in psychology and other social sciences, we present a theoretical account of the mechanisms through which geographic variation in psychological characteristics emerge and persist within regions, and we propose a model for conceptualizing the processes through which such characteristics become expressed in geographic social indicators. The proposed processes were examined in the context of theory and research on personality traits. Hypotheses derived from the model were tested using personality data from over half a million U.S. residents. Results provided preliminary support for the model, revealing clear patterns of regional variation across the U.S. and strong relationships between state-level personality and geographic indicators of crime, social capital, religiosity, political values, employment, and health. Overall, this work highlights the potential insights generated by including macrolevel perspectives within psychology and suggests new routes to bridging theory and research across several disciplines in the social sciences.

Everything you’ve heard about millennials is wrong | The Daily Dot

Everything you’ve heard about millennials is wrong; Chris Osterndorf; In The Daily Dot; 2014-08-02

Everything you’ve heard about millennials is wrong; Chris Ostendorf(sic); In Salon; 2014-08-02.
Teaser: They’re stunted, privileged, lazy and ruining the institution of marriage according to a new study. It’s all bunk

Via: backfill

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Everything you've heard about millennials is wrong