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Inaugural Cultural Evolution Society Conference

Ron presented at the Inaugural Cultural Evolution Society Conference in Jena, Germany.

Read the abstract below and download the presentation.

Synchrony as social bonding mechanism: A review and meta-analysis of experimental and field studies on the effects of synchronous behavior

Ronald Fischer, Reneeta Mogan, Joseph Bulbulia

Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand

All known human groups are known to have rituals that involve synchronized behavior (singing, chanting, dancing, marching, etc.). The most commonly proposed hypothesis for the universality of synchronous behavioral ritual is that it was evolutionary adaptive by bonding groups of unrelated individuals into cohesive groups. We examine these claims. First, we meta-analytically investigated the strength of synchrony on four dimensions of social cognition and behavior: prosocial behavior, perceptions of social bonding, social cognition, and positive affect.  We analyzed a total of 42 independent studies (N = 4,327) in which experimentally manipulated synchronous actions were compared to control conditions in healthy non-clinical samples.  Supporting the general social bonding hypothesis, synchronous actions were associated with increases in all four dimensions.  Synchrony had a medium-sized effect on prosocial behaviors, a small­-to-medium-sized effect on perceptions of social bonding and social cognition, and a small-sized effect on positive affect.  At the same time, the effects were sensitive to scale: synchrony in larger groups increased prosocial behavior and positive affect, but decreased social bonding perceptions and social cognition.  This suggests that distinct process mechanisms (neurocognitive versus affective) might underpin synchrony’s effects. Moving from the lab to the field, synchronous behaviors in real-world groups increase social bonding behaviors in a variety of different cultural settings. We review previous studies and present novel data showing the effects of synchronous behavior on social bonding. Yet, in real-world settings synchrony effects are conditional on power dynamics and meaning created around the behaviors. These effects further explain how cultural evolution may have augmented and fine-tuned basic behavioral bonding processes for maintaining social cohesion and dominance structures across evolutionary time frames.

Johannes presented at the IACCP17 in Warsaw

You can find the presentation here.

Diversity as a Predictor of Identity and Well-being

An increasing portion of members of the younger generations, especially in Eastern European countries identify as Europeans. Collective identities can be affected by a range of contextual factors, for example, ethnic diversity. The present study investigated perceived ethnic diversity as a predictor, and national and European identities as mediators in the prediction of well-being. The study was conducted in Bulgaria and Romania due to the scarcity of research conducted on collective identity constructs in those two countries. An online questionnaire was administered to 204 Bulgarian and 163 Romanian university students. We established a path model in which the effect of diversity on well-being was completely mediated by national and European identity. European and national identity were positvely correlated in both countries. Our findings indicate that the European and national identity play an important role in understanding the positive influence of diversity on well-being.

Ron’s presentation on Spirit Possession

Ron presented at the conference on  Spirit Possession: Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives.

Read his abstract below or download the presentation.

Spirit possession in Southern Thailand – linking biology, social context and meaning

Associate Professor Ronald Fischer, Victoria University of Wellington and Tina Tasananukorn, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ.

Spirit possessions are a central aspect of Taoist-Buddhist practices among the Sino-Thai communities in Southern Thailand. These practices find their most visible expression each year during the nine day Vegetarian Festival, celebrated during the first nine days of the ninth lunar month in honor of the Nine-Emperor God. During this period, thousands of spirit mediums go into trance and perform various acts of divination, blessing and self-mutilation. These acts are puzzling due to the apparent endurance of extreme pain, but are seen as acts of supernatural power among local community members. In order to understand these dynamics better, together with a small team of researchers, we have conducted a series of multimethod studies over the last five years, incorporating various surveys, in-depth interviews, observations, physiological measures and historical analyses. In this presentation, we will provide an overall summary of the emerging picture related to the social status and experiences of spirit mediums. Overall, our findings suggest a complex interaction of biological and social variables describes best the emergence and popularity of spirit mediumship in this particular population. Individuals with (biological) vulnerabilities are more likely to become spirit mediums. Interestingly, economic vulnerabilities and socio-economic status appear less important than in Western societies. Yet, these vulnerabilities that in Western societies often lead to marginalization and stigmatization are channeled into a socially acceptable and valuable cultural expression, that elevates the social status of the spirit mediums and thereby allows them to fully participate in social life and provides them with a unique opportunity to fulfill highly valued social roles. Our case study shows that spirit possession is a multi-faceted expression that needs to be unpackaged using multi-disciplinary approaches. It also provides new insights for psychological help, as it highlights the importance of social acceptance and cultural dynamics.

The 6th International Conference on English, Discourse and Intercultural Communication & The 23rd International Conference of the International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies

Have a look at the presentation Ron gave in Macao on “A new measure of intercultural
behavioural reaction norms


Meet Johannes at the IAIR17

Johannes will travel to the The 10th Biennial Congress of the
International Academy for Intercultural Research, June 25 through 29, 2017 in New York.

You can hear his talk about public perceptions of international students or just meet up for a chat on common research interests.

Abstract: A substantial number of students around the globe, close to 4.5 million in 2012 with estimates increasing to 7.2 million by 2025, pursued higher education outside of their country of origin. To realize the psychological, social, economic and academic benefits of international education, it is important to understand how these international students are received into educational institutions and the wider society. A key question, therefore, is: what shapes the public attitudes and behavior towards international students?

In the current study, we aimed to partially replicate and extend Ward and Masgoret’s (2006) integrative model of attitudes toward immigrants. We do this by applying the model to international students and by extending it from attitudes to helping behaviors. We conducted the research with 526 community members in New Zealand who participated in a telephone survey that assessed, multicultural ideology, perceptions of realistic and symbolic threat, intergroup anxiety, and contact with, attitudes towards, and helping behavior aimed at international students.

We proposed and tested a model, using pathway analysis, in which contact and multicultural ideology predicted attitudes towards international students, partially mediated by threat, and attitudes predicted a greater willingness to help international students. The data showed a good fit to the model with the addition of a path from contact to helping behavior and the moderation of the relationship between attitudes and helping by intergroup anxiety. The fit was χ2 (7, N = 526) = 15.68, CMIN/df = 2.24, p < .05; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .05, LO90 = .02, HI90 = .08

The results are discussed in relation to the Integrated Threat Theory (ITT) and point to a novel way to use ITT to understand the formation of public attitudes towards international students and the transition from those attitudes to behavior.

Download the Presentation.