In this introduction, we offer an overview of developmental idealism (DI) theory and the contributions of this special issue. DI is a collection of values and beliefs about socioeconomic development and its causal links to other elements of societies. Within DI, some societal elements are identified as “modern,” inherently good, and helpful to development, while others are identified as “traditional,” undesirable, and unhelpful to development. DI theory posits that these schemas spread from Northwest European elites to ordinary people. In turn, people are motivated to adopt “modern” behaviors because they are seen as the means of achieving a good life and socioeconomic development. The articles in this special issue contribute to the empirical investigation of DI theory in a variety of ways. This issue enriches the DI methodological toolkit, demonstrating, for example, that DI measures are valid and reliable and that internet search queries can be used to examine DI. The articles also make strides in assessing the prevalence and nature of DI thinking, from the internet to far-flung geographic locations, including Albania, Kenya, Nepal, and Vietnam. Finally, this issue contributes to identifying pathways for the spread of DI, pointing to national elites, monetary incentives, and television.

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