Why do cultures change? In the present talk I will present new research exploring cultural change in eight cultural-level markers, or correlates, of individualism in the United States, all of which increased over the course of the 20th century: frequency of individualist themes in books, preference for uniqueness in baby naming, frequency of single-child relative to multichild families, frequency of single-generation relative to multigeneration households, percentage of adults and percentage of older adults living alone, small family size, and divorce rates (relative to marriage rates). I will further show results from tests of six key hypotheses regarding cultural change in individualism-collectivism. As predicted by previous theories, changes in socioeconomic structure, pathogen prevalence, and secularism accompanied changes in individualism averaged across all measures. The relationship with changes in individualism was less robust for urbanization. Contrary to previous theories, changes in individualism were positively (as opposed to negatively) related to the frequency of disasters and not at all related to shifts in climatic demands. Time-lagged analyses suggested that only socioeconomic structure had a robust effect on individualism; changes in socioeconomic structure preceded changes in individualism. I will discuss implications of this work for anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology.
Igor Grossmann is a world traveller: Born in the Soviet Union, he lived in Ukraine, Germany, and the U.S. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and the director of the “Wisdom and Culture” laboratory at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Prof. Grossmann has published widely, including such journals as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A., Psychological Science, or Journal of Experimental Psychology, and it has been recognized through numerous awards, including two RISE Awards from the Association for Psychological Science, a Dissertation Award from the American Psychological Association (Division 20), The Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Award from The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the President’s New Investigator Award from the Canadian Psychological Association.