‘The Triple Package’ debunked


The theory published in the book, ‘The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America,’ was recently disproved by Union professor Joshua J. Hart and Christopher F. Chabris of the Union Psychology Department.

This theory, developed in 2014 by authors and Yale law professors Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld, suggests that people considered to be extraordinarily successful share three dominant cultural traits: a superiority complex, personal insecurity and impulse control.

Chua and Rubenfeld attempted to explain why some groups “do strikingly better than others in terms of wealth, position and other conventional measures of success.”

The book also asserted that that highly successful people belonged to one of these ethnical groups: Cubans, East Asians, Indians, Jews, Lebanese, Mormons, Nigerians and Persians.

The professors, however have concluded that there is little evidence to support the idea of the so-called ‘triple package.’ They counter that intelligence, conscientiousness and economic advantage are the most likely elements of success, regardless of ethnicity or race.

It all started when Professor Hart came across this book two years ago. “The book studied the psychological effects of insecurities and that, I thought, was something worth investigating. Fortunately, this was partly overlapping with Professor Chabris’s research too,” said Professor Hart.

Hart also mentioned how the authors of the book had made a psychological claim without any concrete research. He said, “In order to support their argument they pointed at different cultural groups who they deemed to possess those three dominant cultural traits. No where did they attempt to back their argument with appropriate research, and that’s what led us to look into it in detail.”

As part of their research, Hart and Chabris conducted two separate online surveys of nearly 1,300 adults through Amazon Mechanical Turk – an online crowdsourcing internet marketplace enabling individuals to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are currently unable to do.

Participants were asked a series of questions designed to measure their impulsiveness, ethnocentrism and personal insecurity. They also completed a test of their cognitive abilities. Finally, participants provided their income, occupation, education and other awards and achievements.

After analyzing the data in a number of ways, it was concluded that Chua and Rubenfeld’s theory of a ‘triple package’ failed scientific scrutiny,

Their results have been published in the journal ‘Personality and Individual Differences.’

Furthermore, The researchers also found that the most interesting and counterintuitive part of the triple package theory–that “personal insecurity” would create success among people who also have a sense of group superiority and impulse control–was directly contradicted by the study itself.

“People, in general, should know the truth about how the world works. Particularly, in an area like this where you’re focusing on something really specific. I think, it is critically important that people know the truth and don’t base their lives on an untested theory,” noted Hart, who also led this study.

The book, published in 2014, became quite popular and did not only receive widespread attention but was also reviewed heavily by notable newspapers and media houses like the New York Times.

Hart and Chabris also stressed that they did not object to Chua and Rubenfeld’s theory but simply believed that substantial research has not been done in this area specifically to prove the theory right.

They do hope, however that their inclination towards the theory being wrong will be reversed in the future when more research is done and the issue is better understood. “For now, we have not found any evidence on the theory suggesting that personal insecurity and ethical superiority are related to being successful or a hard worker,” said Hart and Chabris.



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