May 7, 2012 § 4 Comments
Since we’re all globally savvy, we could find all the countries on a world map, right? (Well, most of them . . . at least the big ones.) But could you locate the countries on a map arranged by culture? That’s the kind of map that the World Values Survey has produced, with each nation positioned along two axes: Traditional/Secular-rational and Survival/Self-expression. The result is a graphic on a square grid that puts like-minded countries into distinct groupings, like the stitched-together pieces of an abstract quilt.
The Traditional/Secular-rational scale measures the importance placed on religion, while Survival/Self-expression distinguishes, in large part, between the haves and the have-nots, where the survival cultures are concerned with basic needs, and the self-expression cultures focus more on “subjective well-being” and “quality of life.”
The countries that sit closest to the four corners of the 2005-2008 map are
- Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Bulgaria: Secular-rational and Survival
- Zimbabwe and Morocco: Traditional and Survival
- Sweden: Secular-rational and Self-expression
- US and Ireland: Traditional and Self-expression
This more recent layout is interesting, but what makes it even more interesting is to see how it compares with the 1999-2004 map, showing the shifting of cultures over time.
Both maps are part of an article, “The WVS Culture Map of the World,” written by Ronald Inglehart and Christ Welzel. After explaining the survey findings, the authors go on to evaluate them as they relate to the development of democracy in societies around the globe, giving particular attention to the correlation between the move toward self-expression and, therefore, interpersonal trust:
This produces a culture of trust and tolerance, in which people place a relatively high value on individual freedom and self-expression, and have activist political orientations. These are precisely the attributes that the political culture literature defines as crucial to democracy.
This seems to be a basic theme of the World Values Survey organization. My guess is that not everyone across political and ideological spectrums agree with their conclusions. But their interpretation of the survey results are certainly thought provoking, especially in light of recent world events, such as the Arab Spring.
March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
I remember seeing a large advertisement in the Taipei subway station showing a Western model in a swimsuit sporting a dark tan. In the US, a photo of a lady with that kind of complexion might be promoting a tanning product, but in Taiwan, it was an example of what you don’t want to look like. Instead, the ad was for a skin whitener. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. But recent research has finally shown us a female trait that everyone around the globe agrees is attractive: little feet.
According to a team led by Daniel M.T. Fessler, six studies confirm that “small foot size is preferred when judging women.” In one study, when asked to pick the most attractive women, males and females from eight countries chose the ladies with the smallest feet. That’s because everywhere in the world, small feet represent “youth and femininity, and thus desirability.” . . . Um, well, not everywhere. Seems there is one group of people who disagree. They are the Karo Batak of rural Indonesia, hard workers who often don’t wear shoes. They prefer women with large feet, which are associated with strength and a better ability to work in the fields.
The research was presented in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior, under the title “Testing a Postulated Case of Intersexual Selection in Humans: The Role of Foot Size in Judgments of Physical Attractiveness and Age” (abstract here). (I’m thinking a lot of cultural anthropologists and their ilk have a preference for long titles.)
(Tom Jacobs, “Great Dessert? Depends on the Plate,” Miller-McCune, March 2, 2012)
Evolution and human behavior. Now those are a couple topics that can cause some disagreement around the world. An article published in Science in 2006 reported on studies showing that adults in the US, when compared to people in 32 Europe countries and Japan, are much less likely to accept “the evolution of humans from earlier forms of life.” Back then, only 14% of adults in the US believed evolution to be “true,” while about one third said it was “false.” The only country in the study with a lower opinion of evolution was Turkey. On the opposite extreme of the spectrum was Iceland, where over 80% of adults believed in evolution.
(John Hartman, Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto, “Public Acceptance of Evolution,” originally in Science, August 11, 2006, online at The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science)