Sibling Rivalry 

The Revolution Begins at Home

Page 7 of 7

Researcher Catherine Salmon recently conducted a study in which she asked people how likely they would be to support a radical theory such as cold fusion, and she actually obtained a birth-order effect that was as impressive as anything I have found in history. And Salmon didn't even ask the best question--cold fusion does not involve radical ideological issues but rather purely technical ones.

It would be nice, of course, if another major revolution were to come along, so we could see if it brings out birth-order effects like those that have appeared during most radical revolutions in history. In the meantime, I have been designing various Internet surveys that assess behavior in varying contexts--such as dominance hierarchies at work--and this context-sensitive approach has yielded reasonably impressive birth-order effects. In my view, the key to obtaining birth-order effects outside the family is to reproduce, as closely as possible, the behavioral context in which the sibling strategies that underlie these effects originally developed. When one does that, the influence of birth order on adult behavior appears to be just as demonstrable as it was several centuries ago.

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