Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 118–124 | Cite as

Religious Veiling as a Mate-Guarding Strategy: Effects of Environmental Pressures on Cultural Practices

  • Farid PazhoohiEmail author
  • Martin Lang
  • Dimitris Xygalatas
  • Karl Grammer
Research Article


Male parental investment can contribute to the fitness of both sexes through increased fertility and child survivorship. The level and intensity of parental investment are dependent upon ecological variations: in harsh and demanding environments, the need for biparental care increases. Moreover, when environmental pressures increase, uncertainty over paternity may lead to favoring stricter mate-guarding practices, thus directing males to invest more effort toward controlling and guarding their mates from infidelity. In this paper, we test the hypothesis that religious veiling, as a social and cultural practice which regulates and restricts sexuality, will be more important in harsher environments. Our results show that harsh and demanding environments are associated with the importance of religious veiling and the level of religiosity, providing a link between cultural practices such as religious veiling and ecological variation.


Religious veiling Paternal investment Reproductive success National health index Ecological variations Religion Human mate guarding Hijab 



The authors would like to thank James F. Doyle for his comments on the earlier draft of the manuscript. FP receives funding from FCT Portugal through grant PD/BD/114366/2016.

Supplementary material

40806_2016_79_MOESM1_ESM.docx (309 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 308 kb)
40806_2016_79_MOESM2_ESM.docx (36 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 36 kb)
40806_2016_79_MOESM3_ESM.docx (109 kb)
ESM 3 (DOCX 108 kb)
40806_2016_79_MOESM4_ESM.docx (13 kb)
ESM 4 (DOCX 13 kb)
40806_2016_79_MOESM5_ESM.docx (12 kb)
ESM 5 (DOCX 12 kb)
40806_2016_79_MOESM6_ESM.docx (12 kb)
ESM 6 (DOCX 11 kb)


  1. Anderson, K. G., Kaplan, H., Lam, D., & Lancaster, J. (1999a). Paternal care by genetic fathers and stepfathers II: reports by Xhosa high school students. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20(6), 433–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, K. G., Kaplan, H., & Lancaster, J. (1999b). Paternal care by genetic fathers and stepfathers I: reports from Albuquerque men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20(6), 405–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, K. G., Kaplan, H., & Lancaster, J. B. (2007). Confidence of paternity, divorce, and investment in children by Albuquerque men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atkins, D. C., & Kessel, D. E. (2008). Religiousness and Infidelity: attendance, but not faith and prayer, predict marital fidelity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(2), 407–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barber, N. (2011). A cross-national test of the uncertainty hypothesis of religious belief. Cross-Cultural Research, 45(3), 318–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bethmann, D., & Kvasnicka, M. (2005). Paternal uncertainty and the economics of mating, marriage, and parental investment in children: SFB 649 discussion paper.Google Scholar
  7. Bethmann, D., & Kvasnicka, M. (2007). Uncertain paternity, mating market failure, and the institution of marriage: SFB 649 discussion paper.Google Scholar
  8. Bethmann, D., & Kvasnicka, M. (2011). The institution of marriage. Journal of Population Economics, 24(3), 1005–1032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Botero, C. A., Gardner, B., Kirby, K. R., Bulbulia, J., Gavin, M. C., & Gray, R. D. (2014). The ecology of religious beliefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(47), 16784–16789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, K. (2006). Realising Muslim women’s rights: the role of Islamic identity among British Muslim women. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29, 417–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brünig, B., & Fleischmann, F. (2015). Understanding the veiling of Muslim women in the Netherlands. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 54(1), 20–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burch, R. L., & Gallup, G. G. (2000). Perceptions of paternal resemblance predict family violence. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21(6), 429–435.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Burdette, A. M., Ellison, C. G., Sherkat, D. E., & Gore, K. A. (2007). Are there religious variations in marital infidelity? Journal of Family Issues, 28(12), 1553–1581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burgess, R.L., & Draper, P. (1989). The explanation of family violence: The role of biological, behavioral, and cultural selection. Crime and Justice, 59–116.Google Scholar
  15. Carvalho, J.-P. (2013). Veiling. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128(1), 337–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1998). The truth about Cinderella: a Darwinian view of parental love: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  17. DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Crawford, J. R., Welling, L. L. M., & Little, A. C. (2010). The health of a nation predicts their mate preferences: cross-cultural variation in women’s preferences for masculinized male faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1692), 2405–2410.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Dickemann, M. (1979). The ecology of mating systems in hypergynous dowry societies. Social Science Information, 18(2), 163–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dickemann, M. (1981). Paternal confidence and dowry competition: a biocultural analysis of purdah. In R. D. Alexander & D. W. Tinkle (Eds.), Natural selection and social behavior: Recent research and new theory (pp. 417–438). New York: Chiron Press.Google Scholar
  20. Dray, S., & Dufour, A. B. (2007). The ade4 package: implementing the duality diagram for ecologists. Journal of Statistical Software, 22(4), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Droogsma, R. A. (2007). Redefining Hijab: American Muslim women’s standpoints on veiling. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35, 294–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. El Guindi, F. (2003). Veil: modesty, privacy and resistance. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  23. Gallup. (2009). Religiosity Highest in World’s Poorest Nations (Publication, from Gallup Organization: retrieved January, 2014 from
  24. Galor, O., & Moav, O. (2007). The neolithic revolution and contemporary variations in life expectancy. Working Paper, Brown University, Department of Economics, No. 2007-14.Google Scholar
  25. Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of human mating: trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(04), 573–587.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Gaulin, S. J. C., McBurney, D. H., & Brakeman-Wartell, S. L. (1997). Matrilateral biases in the investment of aunts and uncles. Human Nature, 8(2), 139–151.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Geary, D. C. (2006). Coevolution of paternal investment and cuckoldry in humans. In T. K. Shackelford & S. Platek (Eds.), Female infidelity and paternal uncertainty (pp. 14–34). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gettler, L. T. (2010). Direct male care and Hominin evolution: why male–child interaction is more than a nice social idea. American Anthropologist, 112(1), 7–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Graeber, D. (2011). Debt: the first 5000 years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House.Google Scholar
  30. Guha, B. (2012). Grandparents as guards: a game theoretic analysis of inheritance and post marital residence in a world of uncertain paternity. Research Collection School of Economics.Google Scholar
  31. Gurven, M., Winking, J., Kaplan, H., von Rueden, C., & McAllister, L. (2009). A bioeconomic approach to marriage and the sexual division of labor. Human Nature, 20(2), 151–183.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Huber, B. R., & Breedlove, W. L. (2007). Evolutionary theory, kinship, and childbirth in cross-cultural perspective. Cross-Cultural Research, 41(2), 196–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huber, B. R., Linhartova, V., Cope, D., & Lacy, M. (2004). Evolutionary theory and birth-related investments by kin in cross-cultural perspective. World Cultures, 15(1), 60–78.Google Scholar
  34. Irons, W. (2001). Religion as a hard-to-fake sign of commitment. In R. Nesse (Ed.), Evolution and the capacity for commitment (pp. 292–309). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Kaplan, H., & Lancaster, J. B. (2003). An evolutionary and ecological analysis of human fertility, mating patterns and parental investment. In K. W. Wachter & R. A. Bulatao (Eds.), Offspring: Fertility behavior in biodemographic perspective (pp. 170–223). Washington: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  36. Kaplan, H., Hill, K., Lancaster, J., & Hurtado, A. M. (2000). A theory of human life history evolution: diet, intelligence, and longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology Issues News and Reviews, 9(4), 156–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kaplan, H., Lancaster, J., & Robson, A. (2003). Embodied capital and the evolutionary economics of the human life span. Population and Development Review, 29, 152–182.Google Scholar
  38. Karant-Nunn, S.C., & Wiesner, M.E. (Eds.). (2003). Luther on women: a sourcebook. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Keddie, N. (1991). Introduction: deciphering Middle Eastern women’s history. In N. Keddie & B. Baron (Eds.), Women in Middle Eastern history: Shifting boundaries in sex and gender. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Kim, M.-H. (1996). Changing relationships between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law in urban South Korea. Anthropological Quarterly, 179–192.Google Scholar
  41. Kleiber, C., & Zeileis, A. (2008). Applied econometrics with R. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-77316-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lukas, D., & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2013). The evolution of social monogamy in mammals. Science, 341(6145), 526–530.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Mace, R. (2000). Evolutionary ecology of human life history. Animal Behaviour, 59, 1–10.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Mahmud, Y., & Swami, V. (2010). The influence of the hijab (Islamic head-cover) on perceptions of women’s attractiveness and intelligence. Body Image, 7(1), 90–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Marcinkowska, U., Kozlov, M., Cai, H., Contreras Garduño, J., Dixson, B., Gavita, O., et al. (2014). Cross cultural variation in men’s preferences for sexual dimorphism in women faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 10(4), 20130850.Google Scholar
  46. Marlowe, F. (1999). Male care and mating effort among Hadza foragers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 46(1), 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McBurney, D., Simon, J., Gaulin, S. C., & Geliebter, A. (2002). Matrilateral biases in the investment of aunts and uncles. Human Nature, 13(3), 391–402.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. McGinley, M.A., Temme, D.H., & Geber, M.A. (1987). Parental investment in offspring in variable environments: theoretical and empirical considerations. American Naturalist, 370–398.Google Scholar
  49. Mir-Hosseini, Z. (2007). The politics and hermeneutics of hijab in Iran: from confinement to choice. Muslim World Journal of Human Rights, 4(1).Google Scholar
  50. Murphy, R. F. (1964). Social distance and the veil. American Anthropologist, 66(6), 1257–1274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Norenzayan, A. (2013) Big gods: How religion transformed cooperation and conflict. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  52. OECD (2010). Atlas of gender and development: How Social norms affect gender equality in non-OECD countries. OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  53. Pazhoohi, F. (2016). On the practice of cultural clothing practices that conceal the eyes: an evolutionary perspective. Evolution, Mind and Behaviour, 14(1), 55–64.Google Scholar
  54. Pazhoohi, F., & Burriss, R.P. (2016). Hijab and “hitchhiking”: a field study. Evolutionary Psychological Science.Google Scholar
  55. Pazhoohi, F., & Hosseinchari, M. (2014). Effects of religious veiling on Muslim men’s attractiveness ratings of Muslim women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1083–1086.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Pinheiro, J., Bates, D., DebRoy, S., Sarkar, D., & R Core Team (2016). nlme: Linear and Nonlinear Mixed Effects Models. R package version 3.1-128,
  57. Platek, S.M., & Shackelford, T.K. (2006). Female infidelity and paternal uncertainty: evolutionary perspectives on male anti-cuckoldry tactics. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Purzycki, B., Norenzayan, A., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q., Cohen, E., McNamara, R., Willard, A., Xygalatas, D., & Henrich, J. (2016). Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality. Nature, 530, 327–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Rasmussen, S. J. (1991). Veiled self, transparent meanings: Tuareg headdress as social expression. Ethnology, 30(2), 101–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Renne, E. P. (Ed.). (2013). Veiling in Africa. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Schiller, M. (1995). The obligation of married women to cover their hair. Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, 30, 81–108.Google Scholar
  62. Schmidt, K. (2010). Göbekli Tepe—the stone age sanctuaries. New results of ongoing excavations with a special focus on sculptures and high reliefs. Documenta Praehistorica, XXXVII, 239–256.Google Scholar
  63. Schmitt, D. P. (2005). Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: a 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(2), 247–274.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Sear, R., & Mace, R. (2008). Who keeps children alive? A review of the effects of kin on child survival. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Shenk, M. K. (2011). Our children: parental decisions—How much to invest in your offspring. In U. J. F. et al. (Ed.), Essential building blocks of human nature. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  66. Sosis, R. (2003). Why aren’t we all Hutterites? Costly signaling theory and religious behavior. Human Nature, 14(2), 91–127.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Strassmann, B. I., Kurapati, N. T., Hug, B. F., Burke, E. E., Gillespie, B. W., Karafet, T. M., et al. (2012). Religion as a means to assure paternity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 9781–9785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tobin, J. (1958). Estimation of relationships for limited dependent variables. Econometrica, 26(1), 24–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Trinitapoli, J., & Regnerus, M. D. (2006). Religion and HIV risk behaviors among married men: initial results from a study in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 45(4), 505–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Trivers, R.L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man. Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  71. Watts, J., Greenhill, S. J., Atkinson, Q. D., Currie, T. E., Bulbulia, J., & Gray, R. D. (2015). Broad supernatural punishment but not moralizing high gods precede the evolution of political complexity in Austronesia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1804), 20142556.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  72. Weeden, J., Cohen, A. B., & Kenrick, D. T. (2008). Religious attendance as reproductive support. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 327–334.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  73. Winking, J. (2006). Are men really that bad as fathers? The role of men’s investments. Biodemography and Social Biology, 53(1-2), 100–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Farid Pazhoohi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Lang
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dimitris Xygalatas
    • 4
    • 5
  • Karl Grammer
    • 6
  1. 1.Human Cognition Laboratory, Department of Basic PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Human Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.LEVYNA, Laboratory for the Experimental Research of ReligionMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  5. 5.Interacting Minds Centre, Department of Culture and SocietyAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ViennaWienAustria

Personalised recommendations