Bonn Macrohistory Webinar – Melanie Xue (New York University Abu Dhabi). Title : “Folklore (with Stelios Michalopoulos)”.

Event details

  • Thursday, October 29
  • 4:00 PM
Folklore (with Stelios Michalopoulos).

Folklore is the collection of a community’s traditional beliefs, customs, and stories, passed down through word of mouth. In this study, we introduce to economics a unique catalogue of oral traditions across approximately 1,000 preindustrial societies. We validate the catalogue’s content and show that folklore reflects known geographic and social attributes. We then embark on a series of applications meant to illustrate how to extract information from folklore motifs. In the first set of applications, we illustrate how to fill in gaps and expand upon a group’s ethnographic record. Second, we discuss how machine learning and manual classification methods can help shed light on ancestral norms. We focus on attitudes towards risktaking, altruism, trust, and gender roles. Groups with a larger number of images in their oral tradition that portray men as dominant and women as submissive have a higher degree of gender bias today. Additionally, societies with low tolerance of antisocial behavior in their folktales, represented by tricksters getting punished, are more trusting and prosperous. These patterns hold across ethnic groups, countries, and for second-generation immigrants. Overall, the results highlight the usefulness of folklore for cultural economics and suggest additional applications.