In the past decade, psychologists, in their desire to include people from all over the world, have expanded their narrow focus away from just North America, Europe, and Australia. This has given them a greater insight on global distribution of cultural features such as the society-level differences in psychological phenomena like individualism and happiness. This greater knowledge can help us better understand the various roots of cultural similarities and differences.
Powerful cases in point are studies demonstrating that countries differ substantially in terms of mean happiness and the additional finding that this pattern is anything but random. In both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, happiness is higher in countries farther away from the equator (such as Denmark or New Zealand) than those closer to it (such as Vietnam or Cambodia).
Even more intriguing, we have uncovered the same pattern for individualism and creativity. Like happiness, these cultural features trend higher as one moves away from the equator. When we looked at aggressiveness, we found the opposite pattern: the closer you live to the equator, the more likely you are to exhibit aggressive behavior. To explain these robust links between latitude and culture—from happiness to aggressiveness and beyond—science needs a new field. Latitudinal psychology seeks to explain why societies differ so much and why location on the north-south axis of the earth is so critical.
What is latitude psychology? And why are the people near the equator more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior? Find out the answers over at the Scientific American.
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