Sunday, March 26, 2023

Family happiness is idealized over personal happiness in the majority of countries (49-nation study)

Family First: Evidence of Consistency and Variation in the Value of Family Versus Personal Happiness Across 49 Different Cultures. Kuba Krys et al. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, March 22, 2023, Volume 54, Issue 3.

Abstract: People care about their own well-being and about the well-being of their families. It is currently, however, unknown how much people tend to value their own versus their family’s well-being. A recent study documented that people value family happiness over personal happiness across four cultures. In this study, we sought to replicate this finding across a larger sample size (N = 12,819) and a greater number of countries (N = 49). We found that the strength of the idealization of family over personal happiness preference was small (average Cohen’s ds = .20, range −.02 to.48), but present in 98% of the studied countries, with statistical significance in 73% to 75%, and variance across countries <2%. We also found that the size of this effect did vary somewhat across cultural contexts. In Latin American cultures highest on relational mobility, the idealization of family over personal happiness was very small (average Cohen’s ds for Latin America = .15 and .18), while in Confucian Asia cultures lowest on relational mobility, this effect was closer to medium (ds > .40 and .30). Importantly, we did not find strong support for traditional theories in cross-cultural psychology that associate collectivism with greater prioritization of the family versus the individual; country-level individualism–collectivism was not associated with variation in the idealization of family versus individual happiness. Our findings indicate that no matter how much various populists abuse the argument of “protecting family life” to disrupt emancipation, family happiness seems to be a pan-culturally phenomenon. Family well-being is a key ingredient of social fabric across the world, and should be acknowledged by psychology and well-being researchers and by progressive movements too.

Lifespans of the European Elite, 800–1800: Marked increases around 1400 and again around 1650

Lifespans of the European Elite, 800–1800. Neil Cummins. The Journal of Economic History, Volume 77, Issue 2, June 2017, pp. 406-439.

Abstract: I analyze the adult age at death of 115,650 European nobles from 800 to 1800. Longevity began increasing long before 1800 and the Industrial Revolution, with marked increases around 1400 and again around 1650. Declines in violent deaths from battle contributed to some of this increase, but the majority must reflect other changes in individual behavior. There are historic spatial contours to European elite mortality; Northwest Europe achieved greater adult lifespans than the rest of Europe even by 1000 AD.


This study has characterized adult noble lifespans from 800 to 1800. The consistent and large association uncovered between sex and plague mortality for nobles runs counter to the indiscriminate reputation of the Black Death and counter to recent paleodemographic analysis on skeletons from fourteenth century London (DeWitte Reference Dewitte2009).Footnote 30 If plague killed more women than men, a simple supply-side effect increasing female agency in the marriage market could explain the origin of the European Marriage Pattern (Hajnal Reference Hajnal, Eversley and Glass1965; De Moor and Van Zanden Reference David, S. Ryan and Andrea2010; Voigtländer and Voth Reference Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim2013). Of course this is a premature speculation, the patterns reported here would have to be convincingly established for the population at large.

The sharp decline in the proportion of male nobles dying from battle, from over 600 years of a steady 30 percent, to less than 5 percent in the sixteenth century, predates the arrival of the Industrial Revolution by two centuries. The long-run decline in violence is cited as one of the principal correlates of the emergence of the modern World with the “civilizing process” needing the transformation of warrior nobles into gentleman courtiers (Elias Reference Elias1982).Footnote 31

One can perhaps ask why did battlefield violence decline among European nobility. Nobility certainly did not lose its taste for military life. The Wars of Religion following 1500 were aristocratic feuds at least as much as earlier wars.Footnote 32 However, the decline in battlefield death amongst nobles corresponds to the emergence of modern warfare; artillery, standing armies, and the replacement of privilege with merit.Footnote 33 The power of hereditary warrior status declined in battle as modern and larger standing armies, led by increasingly wealthy princes, focused upon artillery and infantry (Keen Reference Keen1984, pp. 1, 238–53). The decline of cavalry meant that nobility became officers, inherently a more administrative role than before (Keen Reference Keen1984, p. 240). In war, nobility still led, but from the safety of the rear guard, not the front lines.Footnote 34

I estimate the time-trend of adult noble lifespan over the millennium between 800 and 1800. The findings on the timing of the modern rise in age at death agree almost exactly with de la Croix and Licandro (Reference De and Omar2012) (the birth cohort of 1640–1649). The nobility are, in general, forerunners of Europe's mortality transition as David, Johansson, and Pozzi (Reference David, S. Ryan and Andrea2010figs. 3(a) and 3(b), p. 28) argue too.Footnote 35 This may provide a clue for those who seek to explain why mortality declined. There could be an important role for individual behavior and a demonstration effect (e.g., hygiene and other behavioral traits) as this rise predates modern medicine or any public health measures. It also predates the Industrial Revolution.Footnote 36 Whilst modern evidence suggests that life expectancy does not matter for economic growth (Acemoglu and Johnson Reference Acemoglu and Simon2007), the case has not been proven for the preindustrial era.

Unlike de la Croix and Licandro (Reference De and Omar2012), this study argues that lifespan was not a stationary trend before 1650. There are significant oscillations, most importantly the sharp Europe-wide rise in noble lifespan after 1400. The rise is stronger over the 1400–1600 interval in Ireland, Scotland, and in particular, England and Wales (Figures 11 and 12). This pattern has remained hidden. Only long and deep time series of at least a millennium in length could uncover it. For England, this result can be directly compared with existing estimates of adult mortality. The dramatic rise from the fourteenth to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries revealed in Figure 12(a) is in broad accordance with Russell's estimates of life expectancy at age 25 (e25) for tenants-in-chief of the crown from the Inquisitions Post Mortem (Smith Reference Poos, Jim, Richard and Hicks2012Figure 10, p. 79). However, recent re-estimates of e25 for these same data (Poos, Oeppen, and Smith Reference Poos, Jim, Richard and Hicks2012) suggest a much higher level and a flat trend, at about 30 years, during the fourteenth century. Monastic evidence from communities in Durham, Canterbury, and Westminster points to a decline in e25 from 1450 to 1500 (Poos, Oeppen, and Smith Reference Poos, Jim, Richard and Hicks2012Figure 8.2, p. 162). This is not the pattern I find. Figure 12(a) reports the opposite trend for the English elite: a sharply rising trend in predicted average age at death, for those dying over 20, from 1450–1500. The evidence I have assembled and analyzed in this article strongly suggests a strong improvement in lifespan in the fifteenth century for the English elite.

No conclusions can be drawn as to why adult noble lifespan increased so much after 1400. No known medical innovations in Europe before 1500 could be responsible.Footnote 37 Nutrition, in terms of calories consumed, also cannot explain this rise. These elites could be expected to have always filled their bellies. For this reason, those who argue that the “modern rise of population” was a result of nutrition, the equality of aristocratic and peasant lifespans in the past has presented a paradox (see Fogel (Reference Fogel, Engerman and Gallman1986, pp. 480–84) and McKeown (Reference McKeown1976, pp. 139–42)). Robert Fogel attributed this “peerage paradox” to the vast quantities of alcohol the English elite consumed (Reference Fogel, Engerman and Gallman1986, p. 483). Perhaps diet changed in other ways. The late fourteenth century did witness an increase in the proportion of manuscripts on health.Footnote 38 Works such as the Tacuinum Sanitatis, incorporating Arabic and Ancient knowledge, recommended moderation in food and alcohol, adequate rest, and exercise and, similar to modern medicine, emphasized the importance of vegetables and fruit to human health (Janick, Daunay, and Paris Reference Janick, Marie and Harry2010). Of course, the actual effect of these manuscripts is speculation at this point.

The rise in elite adult age at death for those born after 1400 could also be the result of a Darwinian selection effect from the half century of recurring plague that returned in 1347. Plague killed those susceptible to plague but would also have purged the population of other frailties that may have been correlated with plague susceptibility.Footnote 39 However, most people, even during the plague era, died from other causes.Footnote 40 The real long-term demographic effect of the Black Death could have been through its effect on the disease climate. Noble lifespan in Figure 8 corresponds closely to the trend in real wages in England (Clark Reference Clark2005fig. 4, p. 1311)Footnote 41 and to recent estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (Broadberry et al. Reference Broadberry, Bruce and Alexander2015, p. 206). Improved nutrition amongst the general population, from higher real incomes via Malthusian dynamics, could have led to a reduction in the incidence of other infectious diseases among plague survivors and their offspring.Footnote 42 Nutritional status did little to diminish plague lethality (see Fogel Reference Fogel, Engerman and Gallman1986, table 9.11, p. 481) but together with a “purging” effect, the Black Death could have led to an improved climate against infectious disease, especially in cities.

The cause of the 1400 rise in adult noble lifespan is unknown. Presently only speculations can be made. Future empirical work, perhaps linking estate account books (to reconstruct diet) to specific time and location (rural/urban) effects and genealogies of the kind analyzed here, will have great potential to answer this mystery.

This article documents a geographic pattern to European elite lifespans. The mortality gradient runs South-North and East-West, and has existed since before the Black Death. The long existence of such a geographic “effect,” and the factors which are causing it, may have implications for recent work which stresses the “little divergence” between the Northwest Europe and the Southeast (Voigtländer and Voth Reference Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim2013; Broadberry Reference Broadberry2013; de Pleijt and van Zanden Reference Acemoglu and Simon2013). The Black Death is not the first turning point. There was something about the Northwest Europe long before 1346 that led to nobles living longer lives.

People indulge in the belief that social justice is on a uniform path to betterment

Beliefs About Linear Social Progress. Julia D. Hur, Rachel L. Ruttan. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 23, 2023.

Abstract: Society changes, but the degree to which it has changed can be difficult to evaluate. We propose that people possess beliefs that society has made, and will make, progress in a linear fashion toward social justice. Five sets of studies (13 studies in total) demonstrate that American participants consistently estimated that over time, society has made positive, linear progress toward social issues, such as gender equality, racial diversity, and environmental protection. These estimates were often not aligned with reality, where much progress has been made in a nonlinear fashion. We also ruled out some potential alternative explanations (Study 3) and explored the potential correlates of linear progress beliefs (Study 4). We further showed that these beliefs reduced the perceived urgency and effort needed to make further progress on social issues (Study 5), which may ultimately inhibit people’s willingness to act.