In a Social Mood

In a Social Mood

Associate Professor Awarded Inaugural Grant Named in His Honor

By Brance D. Arnold

Does social mood influence our social attitudes and actions? What part does social mood play in influencing our social behavior, particularly in areas such as politics, pop culture, financial markets and the economy? How do societal ethics, philosophies and norms impact economics?

Dr. Dennis Elam, an associate professor of accounting, explores these key questions and the interconnectedness of economics and social behavior in his Accounting Ethics classes at A&M-San Antonio. Dr. Elam, who was awarded the 2021 Outstanding Educator Award by the Texas Society of CPAs, also presents on the topic to professional accounting groups in San Antonio and has given talks nationally and internationally. He even presented at the Social Mood Conference at Warwick College in England along with longstanding institutions, William & Mary and the University of Delaware.   

Robert R. Prechter first advanced the idea of socionomics via a cover story in Barron’s magazine in 1985. After working with legendary Bob Farrell at Merrill Lynch,  Precther began researching why and how markets react in certain ways. Conventional wisdom suggests individuals passively react to external sources, such as FED action in the markets. Socionomics turns that idea on its head, postulating that internal mood shifts literally move markets and popular culture in fractal degrees of change.

“The idea holds that people are affected by outside events,” explained Dr. Elam. “There is a causality where social mood determines what happens, even in the financial market.”  

Dr. Dennis Elam, associate professor of accounting
Dr. Dennis Elam, associate professor of accounting
Ana Montalvo, A&M-SA student

His research and instruction in the field of socionomics recently earned him an inaugural grant of $4,000 from the Socionomics Foundation, a non-profit private operating foundation dedicated to advancing socionomics, the science of social prediction pioneered by Prechter. In fact, the grant program, known as the Elam grant, was named in his honor. The program supports professors in their efforts to speak at conferences and to pursue other engagements for the purpose of sharing socionomics research with academics and other professionals.

“We are optimistic that Elam grant recipients will make a significant impact on the history of socionomics in forthcoming years by conducting and sharing important research that will inform society’s understanding of how social mood influences the tenor and character of social trends,” said Matt Lampert, Socionomics Foundation president.

Dr. Elam’s connection to the Foundation dates back to 2015 and has since grown into broader opportunities for not only Dr. Elam, but A&M-San Antonio.

“I was invited to speak in Gainesville, Georgia, at the Socionomics Foundation’s annual meeting. Because of that presentation, I was asked to present at their annual conference in 2016,” said Dr. Elam. “Then Matt, who is also the research director of the Socionomics Institute, and Alyssa Hayden, executive director of the Socionomics Institute, addressed the Student Research Symposium on campus in 2017.

“The Socionomics Institute even made its first ever collection donation of books and DVDs to A&M-San Antonio,” he continued. “It is available to all students in our library.”   

The partnership between Dr. Elam and the Foundation also provides scholarship opportunities for students. As part of his Accounting Ethics course, students submit socionomic essays in the Foundation’s annual scholarship competition. One of Dr. Elam’s students won the Best Socionomics Paper Award and a $1,000 scholarship in 2020. For 2022, a $618 second prize scholarship went to student Ana J. Montalvo, who earned her bachelor’s degree and is now pursuing her master’s at the University. As the focus of her essay, she analyzed the socionomic motivations behind the problematic accounting practices of WeWork, a company providing coworking spaces.    

Montalvo, who came to the U.S. at age 18 from Zaragoza, Coahuila, Mexico, and is a working mom raising an 11-year-old son with autism, said she is fascinated by the topic of socionomics.

“I enjoy learning about socionomics and how it applies to history and its effects on politics and popular trends,” said Montalvo, an accounting manager at a local construction company and 10-year veteran of the accounting profession.

As far as the grant is concerned, Dr. Elam plans to use the funds to start a podcast. “The podcast is going to be called ‘In The Mood,’ which will air once or twice a week,” shared Dr. Elam. “We will discuss what’s going on in the news and the financial markets. I hope to eventually create a second one, ‘Full Disclosure,’ which is an accounting term, to talk about what’s specifically going on in San Antonio business. This will be a great way to bring awareness to the topic of socionomics and the College of Business at A&M-San Antonio.”  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *