Socionomics Institute Director spoke at 6th Annual Social Mood Conference
Matt Lampert is the director of the Socionomics Institute and a graduate of the University of Cambridge. He is a board member of the Socionomics Foundation and edits the monthly magazine, The Socionomist. Matt has lectured about socionomic theory across the US and Europe.
Matt joined a diverse roster of speakers at the 2016 Social Mood Conference on April 9 in Atlanta, GA. Before the conference, he sat down with Alexandra Lienhard to talk about how he encountered socionomics; how the field has grown over the years; and why he was excited about the 2016 Social Mood Conference.
Socionomics Institute: Social mood in general applies to so many different aspects of daily life – pop culture, politics, religion, the outbreak of diseases – the list of studies that the Institute has published and trends that you’ve researched goes on for quite a while. Do you have a favorite one, of all of those different topics?
Matt Lampert: It’s so hard to pick a favorite study. It’s almost like asking a parent to pick a favorite child, but I’ll give you a favorite moment of mine when I was learning about socionomics. I was visiting with Robert Prechter at his house, and I didn’t know very much about socionomics at the time. We were having dinner, and somehow the conversation drifted to World War II and all the radical leaders, particularly in Europe, that came to power. I asked him something like, “How could such a thing even happen?” He sort of smiled and said, “I have an answer…”
SI: And you opened a can of worms!
ML: We went downstairs, and he had a wall chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. He showed me the market action that preceded World War II and where each of these leaders came to power, and a light bulb lit up. I thought, “This is really interesting.” That was really the beginning of my socionomic journey. Learning about that story and hearing that explanation resonated with me, and I’ve carried that with me ever since.
SI: One study that’s pretty fascinating is your research on marijuana legislation. It got some press a couple of months ago, and you did some radio interviews about the subject. Marijuana legalization is a contested issue in some states. What can social mood tell us about the future of legal marijuana?
ML: Well that was a study that a dear friend and colleague did, Euan Wilson, back in 2009. He looked at the history of social tolerance towards marijuana and found that in bear markets, people become much more open to the idea of legal pot. With the volatility that we’ve had in the market recently, it’s really shaping up to be an interesting year for 2016. This year we could have as many as 13 states with marijuana initiatives on their ballots. And if we get a very negative mood trend going into the election, it could be a banner year for marijuana in this country.
SI: Another headline that’s been dominating the news is the migrant crisis across Eastern Europe. That’s something that you’ve covered in recent issues of The Socionomist. What does the decision for EU countries to shut down their open border policy say about the social mood landscape, both in Europe and beyond?
ML: Right when the EU was coming together and that open border policy was going into effect, Bob said that it was an indication of a positive extreme in social mood. These were countries that had been fighting with each other for hundreds of years and then they were all going to get along and have open borders.
SI: One big happy family!
ML: Hey, when mood turns negative, that’s probably not going to last. And that’s what we’re starting to see in Europe. The migrant crisis has been a quite visible manifestation of that, but there were seeds that were being sown even before that. We saw trends toward increasing xenophobia, people calling for the borders to be controlled more tightly, and that sort of thing. This migrant crisis is just a symptom of an ongoing negative social mood trend in Europe, and we think the worst is yet to come.
SI: You’ve been involved in socionomics and with the Institute for a number of years now. How has recognition for the science grown over those years?
ML: It has changed so much. The old adage is that every good idea goes through this vetting process where initially it’s ignored, then it’s vehemently denied, and then it’s considered to be self-evident. Well, we’ve started to move through the first two stages of that process, and it’s been a lot of fun to be on the ship as it’s sailed down that waterway. And, next month is our 6th annual Social Mood Conference. We’ve had some great speakers in years past. We’ve got another great lineup this year. Every year at the conference, I always walk away from that event saying, “The science has grown, we’ve arrived somewhere.” And it’s a terrific experience.
SI: What will you be speaking about at the conference this year?
ML: We have so much going on in the Socionomics Institute right now. We have so much research, we’ve got a lot of papers, presentations in the works. We’ve got issues of The Socionomist, we’ve got books, we’ve got DVDs. And I finally get to talk about it all at the conference!
SI: How will you pick what you talk about?
ML: We get to pull the curtain back, and I get to share with folks all the things that we’ve been working really hard on. For us, it’s an opportunity to tell people interested in social mood research about all the work we’ve been doing, and I just can’t wait.
SI: Is there anything in particular that you’re especially looking forward to at this year’s event?
ML: What I look forward to every year is meeting the people who come. It’s a terrific community at the conference. It’s the one day a year where we can talk about socionomics with people who know a lot about it, love it, understand it, use it and apply it. Meeting them, hearing their stories and then being able to give something back at the podium is always a privilege.
SI: Well I’m very much looking forward to your presentation and the conference in general. Thanks, Matt.
ML: Thank you!