AsianScientist (Jul. 17, 2018) – An international team of scientists has measured relational mobility—how much freedom and choice individuals have in their interpersonal relationships—in people from 39 different countries and regions. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Depending on one’s geographical location and culture, the way interpersonal relationships are established and maintained differs. In this study, scientists at Hokkaido University, Japan, in collaboration with colleagues across the globe, used advertisements placed on Facebook to recruit nearly 17,000 people for a poll on relational mobility, which is a measure of individuals’ freedom and choice with regards to their relationships.
The team measured relational mobility by asking participants how much opportunity they had to meet new people, and how much freedom they had in beginning or ending a relationship. People from societies assigned a high relational mobility rank showed an overall higher rate of personal self-esteem, closeness in friendship and proactive interpersonal behaviors, such as disclosing personal secrets.
In contrast, people from societies assigned a low relational mobility rank mentioned having lower levels of self-esteem and trust. However, people from societies with low relational mobility tend to expect more permanence and stability in their jobs and relationships, qualities which seemed less secure in high relational mobility societies.
Countries with the highest relational mobility were found to be in North and South America, Europe, and Australasia (Australia and New Zealand), while those with the lowest were concentrated in the Middle East and Asia.
Going further, to investigate what may have caused the differences in relational mobility, researchers analyzed respondents’ answers using several different metrics, including societal threats and subsistence style. Their findings indicate that regions of the world that suffer less from man-made and natural threats have a higher relational mobility score than those that are hit more frequently by disasters.
The researchers suggest that disasters force people to become more co-dependent on others for survival. For the same reason, traditional herding cultures were seen to have a higher relational mobility than rice-cultivating cultures, as the former is a highly nomadic and individualistic activity and the latter an intensive collectivistic one, requiring close coordination between people.
“Some findings were unexpected, particularly in light of traditional cultural theories,” said Professor Masaki Yuki of Hokkaido University, the principal investigator of the project. “Data from Latin America was surprising. Latin American societies are typically said to be collectivistic in the social sciences, but a high level of relational mobility found in the data suggests that Latin American societies may be more individualistic than is traditionally thought.”
“While this study may provide some insight, many more studies are needed to better understand how humans structure their society and interpersonal relationships, and how the society in turn shapes our thinking and behavior,” he added.
Source: Hokkaido University; Photo: Pexels.
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