👓 With the grain: sociology | Espresso: The Economist

Read With the grain: sociology (The Economist (Espresso))
Research has shown that wealthier, urbanised regions tend to harbour more individualistic personalities, while poorer, agrarian areas have more collectivist, community-minded ones. But why? A study from the University of Chicago published this week suggests such differences could be down to a region‚Äôs predominant crops‚ÄĒan insight gleaned, improbably, from observing nearly 9,000 customers in Chinese cafes. People in China‚Äôs south farm rice, which requires a whole village‚Äôs co-operation on irrigation; in the north, they grow wheat, far less demanding of collective effort. The researchers‚Äô first observation was that latte-lovers in wheat-growing regions were far more likely to be alone. Then the team surreptitiously blocked thoroughfares with chairs. Among northerners, 16% shifted the chairs (individualism is marked by actively modifying one‚Äôs environment), while only 6% from the rice-cultivating south did so (collectivists tend to work with what they‚Äôve got). It‚Äôs an intriguing sociological suggestion, perhaps to be filed under ‚Äúyou are what you eat‚ÄĚ.

Randomly ran across this over the weekend and seems like the kind of cultural/food-related study that Jeremy Cherfas would enjoy.

References this study: Moving chairs in Starbucks.1


Talhelm T, Zhang X, Oishi S. Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China. Science Advances. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/4/eaap8469. Published April 25, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2018.

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