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Why are the Big Two of Agency and Communion so Fundamental to Human Psychology? An Agency-Communion Theory (ACT) of Social Learning and Cultural Activity and Its Novel Account of Social Influence

Objective

The Big Two of agency (influence, resourcefulness, authority) and communion (benevolence, prosociality, honesty) are fundamental to human social cognition, the self-concept, and personality. The Big Two must have a tremendously important function for humans, otherwise they were not that fundamental to human psychology. Yet, what is this function? State-of-the-art answers explain the function of the Big Two either in social cognition or in the self-concept or in personality and those answers contradict each other in critical ways. Here, I propose the first all-encompassing answer to the functional question of the Big Two in social cognition and the self-concept and personality. My answer comes in the form of a novel theory: Agency-Communion Theory (ACT) of Social Learning and Cultural Activity. According to ACT, the Big Two are the chief enablers of high-fidelity social learning. Never before have the Big Two been considered relevant for high-fidelity social learning, but the latter is widely seen as the reason for humans’ capacity to build culture and thrive by cultural activity—humans’ most powerful evolutionary strategy. Thus, ACT considers the Big Two the essential building blocks of human cultural activity and, ultimately, of humans’ extraordinary evolutionary success. ACT’s novel portrayal of the Big Two entails a wide variety of previously unforeseen behavioural consequences, including a novel account of social influence. The state-of-the-art account presupposes the existence of an innate tendency to conform to majority norms. ACT questions the existence of such an innate tendency and offers an alternative with far-reaching implications for many theories across social sciences and urgent societal challenges in the sphere of social influence. My interdisciplinary team will empirically test ACT and its novel account of social influence. We will use new, tailor-made methodology in laboratory experiments, formal evolutionary models, Big Data, and panel studies.

Coordinator

UNIVERSITAET MANNHEIM
Net EU contribution
€ 1 215 004,25
Address
Schloss
68161 Mannheim
Germany

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Region
Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart Stuttgart, Stadtkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Participants (2)

KOBENHAVNS UNIVERSITET
Denmark
Net EU contribution
€ 512 586,25
Address
Norregade 10
1165 Kobenhavn

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Region
Danmark Hovedstaden Byen København
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00
THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
United Kingdom
Net EU contribution
€ 272 227,50
Address
The Queen's Drive Northcote House
EX4 4QJ Exeter

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Region
South West (England) Devon Devon CC
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00