Human Nature

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 59–75

Pathogen Prevalence, Group Bias, and Collectivism in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample


DOI: 10.1007/s12110-012-9159-3

Cite this article as:
Cashdan, E. & Steele, M. Hum Nat (2013) 24: 59. doi:10.1007/s12110-012-9159-3


It has been argued that people in areas with high pathogen loads will be more likely to avoid outsiders, to be biased in favor of in-groups, and to hold collectivist and conformist values. Cross-national studies have supported these predictions. In this paper we provide new pathogen codes for the 186 cultures of the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample and use them, together with existing pathogen and ethnographic data, to try to replicate these cross-national findings. In support of the theory, we found that cultures in high pathogen areas were more likely to socialize children toward collectivist values (obedience rather than self-reliance). There was some evidence that pathogens were associated with reduced adult dispersal. However, we found no evidence of an association between pathogens and our measures of group bias (in-group loyalty and xenophobia) or intergroup contact.


Infectious disease Historical pathogen prevalence In-group bias Collectivism Cross-cultural analysis 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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