Intent and mitigating circumstances play a central role in moral and legal assessments in large-scale industrialized societies. Al- though these features of moral assessment are widely assumed to be universal, to date, they have only been studied in a narrow range of societies. We show that there is substantial cross-cultural variation among eight traditional small-scale societies (ranging from hunter-gatherer to pastoralist to horticulturalist) and two Western societies (one urban, one rural) in the extent to which intent and mitigating circumstances influence (...) moral judgments. Although participants in all societies took such factors into account to some degree, they did so to very different extents, varying in both the types of considerations taken into account and the types of violations to which such considerations were applied. The particular patterns of assessment characteristic of large-scale industrialized societies may thus reflect relatively recently culturally evolved norms rather than inherent features of human moral judgment. (shrink)
Decades of research conducted in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, & Democratic (WEIRD) societies have led many scholars to conclude that the use of mental states in moral judgment is a human cognitive universal, perhaps an adaptive strategy for selecting optimal social partners from a large pool of candidates. However, recent work from a more diverse array of societies suggests there may be important variation in how much people rely on mental states, with people in some societies judging accidental harms just (...) as harshly as intentional ones. To explain this variation, we develop and test a novel cultural evolutionary theory proposing that the intensity of kin-based institutions will favor less attention to mental states when judging moral violations. First, to better illuminate the historical distribution of the use of intentions in moral judgment, we code and analyze anthropological observations from the Human Area Relations Files. This analysis shows that notions of strict liability—wherein the role for mental states is reduced—were common across diverse societies around the globe. Then, by expanding an existing vignette-based experimental dataset containing observations from 321 people in a diverse sample of 10 societies, we show that the intensity of a society's kin-based institutions can explain a substantial portion of the population-level variation in people's reliance on intentions in three different kinds of moral judgments. Together, these lines of evidence suggest that people's use of mental states has coevolved culturally to fit their local kin-based institutions. We suggest that although reliance on mental states has likely been a feature of moral judgment in human communities over historical and evolutionary time, the relational fluidity and weak kin ties of today's WEIRD societies position these populations' psychology at the extreme end of the global and historical spectrum. (shrink)
Intergroup and long-distance relationships are both central features of human social life, but because intergroup relationships are emphasized in the literature, long-distance relationships are often overlooked. Here, we make the case that intergroup and long-distance relationships should be studied as distinct, albeit related, features of human sociality. First, we review the functions of both kinds of relationship: while both can be conduits for difficult-to-access resources, intergroup relationships can reduce intergroup conflict whereas long-distance relationships are especially effective at buffering widespread resource (...) shortfalls. Second, to illustrate the importance of distinguishing the two relationship types, we present a case study from rural Bolivia. Combining ethnography and two different experimental techniques, we find that the importance of intergroup relationships—and the salience of group membership itself—varies across populations and across methods. Although ethnography revealed that participants often rely on long-distance relationships for resource access, we were unable to capture participant preferences for these relationships with a forced-choice technique. Taken together, our review and empirical data highlight that (1) intergroup and long-distance relationships can have different functions and can be more or less important in different contexts and (2) validating experimental field data with ethnography is crucial for work on human sociality. We close by outlining future directions for research on long-distance relationships in humans. (shrink)
Human moral judgement may have evolved to maximize the individual's welfare given parochial culturally constructed moral systems. If so, then moral condemnation should be more severe when transgressions are recent and local, and should be sensitive to the pronouncements of authority figures (who are often arbiters of moral norms), as the fitness pay-offs of moral disapproval will primarily derive from the ramifications of condemning actions that occur within the immediate social arena. Correspondingly, moral transgressions should be viewed as less objectionable (...) if they occur in other places or times, or if local authorities deem them acceptable. These predictions contrast markedly with those derived from prevailing non-evolutionary perspectives on moral judgement. Both classes of theories predict purportedly species-typical patterns, yet to our knowledge, no study to date has investigated moral judgement across a diverse set of societies, including a range of small-scale communities that differ substantially from large highly urbanized nations. We tested these predictions in five small-scale societies and two large-scale societies, finding substantial evidence of moral parochialism and contextual contingency in adults' moral judgements. Results reveal an overarching pattern in which moral condemnation reflects a concern with immediate local considerations, a pattern consistent with a variety of evolutionary accounts of moral judgement. (shrink)
Glowacki defines peace as harmonious relationships between groups maintained without the threat of violence, where groups can be anything from families to nation states. However, defining such contentious concepts like “peace” and “groups” is a difficult task, and we discuss the implications of Glowacki's definitions for understanding intergroup relationships and their evolutionary history.
Claims regarding negative strong reciprocity do indeed rest on experiments lacking established external validity, often without even a small Guala's review should prompt strong reciprocity proponents to extend the real-world validity of their work, exploring the preferences participants bring to experiments. That said, Guala's approach fails to differentiate among group selection approaches and glosses over cross-cultural variability.