Ronald Fischer Lecture


Personality, Values, Culture Book Cover

Personality, Values, Culture, Evolution – why are we similar and yet so different?

A public lecture by Ronald Fischer, Professor in Psychology and Co-Director, Center for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington and 2018 Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow

Humans are complex social beings. Curious observers through the ages have noted the dramatic differences in human behaviour around the world. How similar or different are our personalities? To understand human behaviour, an integrated perspective is required – one which considers both what we regularly do (our personality traits) and what motivates us (our values). Traits and values have been studied separately in psychology and related disciplines, yet, what we do (our traits) must somehow be related to what we hold dearly (our values). Furthermore, how can we make sense of both the proposed similarities and differences in personality and values that have been reported by travellers, philosophers and more recently in large survey studies? 

In this talk, Professor Fischer used an evolutionary perspective to address these challenging questions. He presented an integration of personality and human values into a functional framework that highlights how both psychological processes are driven by mechanisms in our brains and related to our genes. Equipped with these insights, he then tackled why we sometimes encounter different personalities and values in some parts of the world, but also debunks the myth of large cultural differences in personality. Deep down, we are all similar and an evolutionary perspective can tell us when, where and why we may behave and value things differently. He presented a gene-culture coevolution model of personality and values that shows how genes, economics, social conditions, and climate jointly shape personality. Finally, he provided some examples that can help people to reflect on who they are and what makes us all so fascinatingly similar, and yet different. 

Ronald Fischer completed his PhD in Social Psychology at Sussex University, UK. From 2015-2016, he was a Marie Curie – Cofund Senior Fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Denmark working on the evolution of ritual and culture. His work on the interplay between culture and psychology, especially on values, personality and well-being has received world-wide recognition and he has been recognized as one of the top 10 most influential researchers on culture and psychology in a Review of General Psychology. He has won numerous awards for his research, including a Best Paper with International Implications award from the Academy of Management, two Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Awards, the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and an Early Career Award from the International Association for Intercultural Relations. He currently is an Associate Editor for Applied Psychology and serves on a number of editorial boards in psychology and management.