Social Sciences: Insurance Instead of Church;  the trust we inherit;  when the housework really grates

Social Sciences: Insurance Instead of Church; the trust we inherit; when the housework really grates

Pam Christian of Iowa is exhausted after working on sandbags during the 1993 flood along the Mississippi River.

Lie all or nothing

In laboratory experiments in 10 different countries, subjects who believed that small lies were as socially unacceptable as big lies were more likely to tell a big lie during an experimental task. Similarly, countries where a greater proportion of people report that it is never justified to cheat on public transport, government benefits and taxes have a higher prevalence of electoral fraud and corruption and a larger shadow economy. The logic here is that if small lies are considered as bad as big ones, then you might as well go big if you’re going to lie at all.

Aycinena, D. et al., “Social Norms and Dishonesty in Societies,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (August 2022).

Long-term harvest

Analysis of data from China reveals that areas with a history of paddy rice cultivation had significantly fewer per capita cases of COVID-19 from spring 2020 to early 2021, even after accounting for urbanization and the local economy, health care capacity, and testing policies. A similar analysis found the same pattern overseas: COVID cases and deaths through early 2021 were significantly lower in rice-growing countries, even controlling for various demographic, economic and political factors and adjusting for testing rates and the potential failure to report. The researchers suggest that rice-growing areas tend to have stronger social norms and social relationships.

Talhelm, T. et al., “How Rice Fights Pandemics: Nature-Crop-Human Interactions Shaped COVID-19 Outcomes,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (in press).

Pastoral Trust

According to data from a worldwide survey, countries and individuals with a transhumant herding background (i.e. herders who do not stay in one place) have more parochial attitudes, as they trust close acquaintances much more than outsiders, especially in areas with a history of drought or conflict. The interviewers also found that people with this ancestry were less friendly and cooperative. This seems to be a legacy of having to rely on a tight-knit group for mutual aid and protection. There was no similar association for sedentary pastoralists or migratory non-pastoral groups. A consequence of this heritage is that in countries with a higher percentage of such ancestry – which are mostly in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia – businesses tend to be smaller and use less objective criteria in promotion.

Le Rossignol, E. & Lowes, S., “Ancestral Subsistence and Moral Universalism: Evidence from Transhumance Pastoral Societies”, National Bureau of Economic Research (July 2022).

Symbolic housework

Studies in several countries have found that heterosexual women who report more positive romantic relationships tend to view their share of housework as fair and, as a result, view the treatment of women in society as fair. To see if this correlation reflected causation, the researchers asked the women to write about a bad day in their relationship or justify their share of housework. Women who wrote about a bad day subsequently viewed their share of housework as less fair, while women who were asked to justify their share of housework subsequently viewed it as more fair. These changes in the perceived fairness of their own housework generate corresponding changes in the perceived fairness of the treatment of women in society.

Sobol-Sarag, D. et al., “The Irony of (Romantic) Harmony: Heterosexual Romantic Relationships May Lead Women to Ground Gender Hierarchy,” Group Processes and Intergroup Relations (forthcoming).

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