Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 567–579 | Cite as

Impartial Institutions, Pathogen Stress and the Expanding Social Network

  • Daniel Hruschka
  • Charles Efferson
  • Ting Jiang
  • Ashlan Falletta-Cowden
  • Sveinn Sigurdsson
  • Rita McNamara
  • Madeline Sands
  • Shirajum Munira
  • Edward Slingerland
  • Joseph Henrich
Article

Abstract

Anthropologists have documented substantial cross-society variation in people’s willingness to treat strangers with impartial, universal norms versus favoring members of their local community. Researchers have proposed several adaptive accounts for these differences. One variant of the pathogen stress hypothesis predicts that people will be more likely to favor local in-group members when they are under greater infectious disease threat. The material security hypothesis instead proposes that institutions that permit people to meet their basic needs through impartial interactions with strangers reinforce a tendency toward impartiality, whereas people lacking such institutions must rely on local community members to meet their basic needs. Some studies have examined these hypotheses using self-reported preferences, but not with behavioral measures. We conducted behavioral experiments in eight diverse societies that measure individuals’ willingness to favor in-group members by ignoring an impartial rule. Consistent with the material security hypothesis, members of societies enjoying better-quality government services and food security show a stronger preference for following an impartial rule over investing in their local in-group. Our data show no support for the pathogen stress hypothesis as applied to favoring in-groups and instead suggest that favoring in-group members more closely reflects a general adaptive fit with social institutions that have arisen in each society.

Keywords

Institutions Parochialism Insecurity Parasite Pathogen Cross-cultural analysis 

Notes

Acknowledgments

DJH acknowledges support from the University of Chicago and Templeton Foundation New Science of Virtues Grant as well as support from the National Science Foundation grant BCS-1150813, jointly funded by the Programs in Cultural Anthropology, Social Psychology Program and Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences. JH acknowledges support from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). CE acknowledges the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant no. 100014_130127/1 on the Social Dynamics of Normative Behavior). TJ acknowledges the financial support of the Mozaiek grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and financial support of the Goldstone Research Fund.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 782 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Hruschka
    • 1
  • Charles Efferson
    • 2
  • Ting Jiang
    • 3
  • Ashlan Falletta-Cowden
    • 4
  • Sveinn Sigurdsson
    • 5
  • Rita McNamara
    • 6
  • Madeline Sands
    • 7
  • Shirajum Munira
    • 8
  • Edward Slingerland
    • 6
  • Joseph Henrich
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.The Field MuseumChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Yale New Haven HospitalNew HavenUSA
  6. 6.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  7. 7.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  8. 8.LAMB Project for Integrated Health and DevelopmentParbatipurBangladesh

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