Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The changing psychology of culture from 1800 through 2000.

Greenfield makes use of the Google Books Ngram Viewer to observe a large shift from collectivist to individualist values during this period, as mass migration occurred from rural to urban areas. The corpus of books published in England and America was examined for the frequency of words like “obliged” and “choose”;“give” and “get”;“act” and “feel”, etc. Their abstract:
The Google Books Ngram Viewer allows researchers to quantify culture across centuries by searching millions of books. This tool was used to test theory-based predictions about implications of an urbanizing population for the psychology of culture. Adaptation to rural environments prioritizes social obligation and duty, giving to other people, social belonging, religion in everyday life, authority relations, and physical activity. Adaptation to urban environments requires more individualistic and materialistic values; such adaptation prioritizes choice, personal possessions, and child-centered socialization in order to foster the development of psychological mindedness and the unique self. The Google Ngram Viewer generated relative frequencies of words indexing these values from the years 1800 to 2000 in American English books. As urban populations increased and rural populations declined, word frequencies moved in the predicted directions. Books published in the United Kingdom replicated this pattern. The analysis established long-term relationships between ecological change and cultural change.

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