Human Nature

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 59–75 | Cite as

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

  • Elizabeth Cashdan
  • Matthew Steele


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 



Our greatest debt is to Damian Murray, for training us in the use of the pathogen sources he used for his cross-national historical pathogen codes. We thank him and Mark Schaller for their encouragement with the project and help with the literature. We are grateful to Bobbi Low for both her own insightful work and her consistent encouragement of our own efforts. We also thank Ryan Bohlander for his exploratory data analysis and persistence in the face of negative results, and Carol Ember and our anonymous reviewers for very helpful suggestions.

Supplementary material

12110_2012_9159_MOESM1_ESM.rtf (96 kb)
ESM 1 (RTF 95.9 kb)


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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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