Researchers from across the social sciences have found consistent deviations from the predictions of the canonical model of self-interest in hundreds of experiments from around the world. This research, however, cannot determine whether the uniformity results from universal patterns of human behavior or from the limited cultural variation available among the university students used in virtually all prior experimental work. To address this, we undertook a cross-cultural study of behavior in ultimatum, public goods, and dictator games in a range of (...) small-scale societies exhibiting a wide variety of economic and cultural conditions. We found, first, that the canonical model – based on self-interest – fails in all of the societies studied. Second, our data reveal substantially more behavioral variability across social groups than has been found in previous research. Third, group-level differences in economic organization and the structure of social interactions explain a substantial portion of the behavioral variation across societies: the higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs to cooperation in everyday life, the greater the level of prosociality expressed in experimental games. Fourth, the available individual-level economic and demographic variables do not consistently explain game behavior, either within or across groups. Fifth, in many cases experimental play appears to reflect the common interactional patterns of everyday life. Key Words: altruism; cooperation; cross-cultural research; experimental economics; game theory; ultimatum game; public goods game; self-interest. (shrink)
Work was conducted among traditional, subsistence whale hunters in Lamalera, Indonesia, in order to test if strict biological kinship or lineage membership is more important for explaining the organization of cooperative hunting parties ranging in size from 8 to 14 men. Crew identifications were collected for all 853 hunts that occurred between May 3 and August 5, 1999. Lineage identity and genetic relatedness were determined for a sample of 189 hunters. Results of matrix regression show that genetic kinship explains little (...) of the hunters’ affiliations independent of lineage identity. Crew members are much more closely related to each other than expected by chance, but this is due to the correlation between lineage membership and genetic kinship. Lineage members are much more likely to affiliate in crews, but kin with r<0.5 are just as likely not to affiliate. The results are discussed vis-à-vis the evolution of cooperation and group identity. (shrink)
Chagnon’s analysis of a well-known axe fight in the Yanomamö village of Mishimishiböwei-teri (Chagnon and Bugos 1979) is among the earliest empirical tests of kin selection theory for explaining cooperation in humans. Kin selection theory describes how cooperation can be organized around genetic kinship and is a fundamental tool for understanding cooperation within family groups. Previous analysis on groups of cooperative Lamaleran whale hunters suggests that the role of genetic kinship as a principle for organizing cooperative human groups could be (...) less important in certain cases than previously thought (Alvard Human Nature 14:129–163, 2003b). Evidence that supports a strong role for genetic kinship—groups are found to be more related than expected by chance—may be spurious because of the correlation between social structure and genetic kinship. Reanalysis of Chagnon’s data using matrix regression techniques, however, confirms that genetic kinship was the primary organizing principle in the axe fight; affinal relations were also important, whereas lineage identity explained nothing. (shrink)
We would like to thank the commentators for their generous comments, valuable insights and helpful suggestions. We begin this response by discussing the selfishness axiom and the importance of the preferences, beliefs, and constraints framework as a way of modeling some of the proximate influences on human behavior. Next, we broaden the discussion to ultimate-level (that is evolutionary) explanations, where we review and clarify gene-culture coevolutionary theory, and then tackle the possibility that evolutionary approaches that exclude culture might be sufficient (...) to explain the data. Finally, we consider various methodological and epistemological concerns expressed by our commentators. (shrink)
The human ability to form large, coordinated groups is among our most impressive social adaptations. Larger groups facilitate synergistic economies of scale for cooperative breeding, such economic tasks as group hunting, and success in conflict with other groups. In many organisms, genetic relationships provide the structure for sociality to evolve via the process of kin selection, and this is the case, to a certain extent, for humans. But assortment by genetic affiliation is not the only mechanism that can bring people (...) together. Affinity based on symbolically mediated and socially constructed identity, or cultural kinship, structures much of human ultrasociality. This paper examines how genetic kinship and two kinds of cultural kinship—affinal kinship and descent—structure the network of cooperating whale hunters in the village of Lamalera, Indonesia. Social network analyses show that each mechanism of assortment produces characteristic networks of different sizes, each more or less conducive to the task of hunting whales. Assortment via close genetic kin relationships (r = 0.5) produces a smaller, denser network. Assortment via less-close kin relations (r = 0.125) produces a larger but less dense network. Affinal networks are small and diffuse; lineage networks are larger, discrete, and very dense. The roles that genetic and cultural kinship play for structuring human sociality is discussed in the context of these results. (shrink)
Native peoples have often been portrayed as natural conservationists, living a “balanced” existence with nature. It is argued that this perspective is a result of an imprecise operational definition of conservation. Conservation is defined here in contrast to the predictions of foraging theory, which assumes that foragers will behave to maximize their short-term harvesting rate. A behavior is deemed conservation when a short-term cost is paid by the resource harvester in exchange for long-term benefits in the form of sustainable harvests. (...) An example of the usefulness of such an operational definition is presented using data on patch and prey choice decisions of a group of subsistence hunters, the Piro of Amazonian Peru. Results indicate that the area around the Piro village is depleted of prey, and that hunters allocate more time to patches where return rates are highest. This response is consistent with both a conservation strategy and foraging theory. Contrary to the expectation of the conservation strategy, however, hunters do not restrain from pursing opportunistically encountered prey in the depleted areas. The implications for conservation policy are briefly discussed. (shrink)
The process of partner selection reflects ethnographic realities where cooperative rewards obtain that would otherwise be lost to loners. Baumard et al. neglect frequency-dependent processes exemplified by games of coordination. Such games can produce multiple equilibria that may or may not include fair outcomes. Additional, group-selection processes are required to produce the outcomes predicted by the models.
Rejecting evolutionary principles is a mistake, because evolutionary processes produced the irrational human minds for which Colman argues. An evolved cultural ability to acquire information socially and infer other's mental states (mind-reading) evokes Stackelberg reasoning. Much of game theory, however, assumes away information transfer and excludes the very solution that natural selection likely created to solve the problem of cooperation.
High producers are motivated to hunt in spite of high levels of sharing because the transfers come from absolutely larger amounts of resource. In the context of a generalized cooperative subsistence strategy, stinginess could provoke the withdrawal of cooperative partners and result in a loss of income. Good producers could have more to lose by not sharing than poor producers would.
Culturally inherited institutional norms structure much of human social life. Successfully replicating institutions train their current members to behave in the generally adaptive ways that served past members. Ancestor veneration is a well-known manifestation of this phenomenon whereby deference is conferred to prestigious past members who are used as cultural models. Such norms of respect may be maintained by punishment based on evidence from theory and laboratory experiments, but there is little observational evidence to show that punishment is commonly used. (...) To test for punishment as a mechanism that maintains these norms, we examine a norm of ancestor veneration in a natural field experiment at the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University. The MSC is a memorial to university war dead, and the expectation is that all who enter the building remove their hats out of respect. Observations reveal that hat removal is significantly more common at the MSC than at two control locations. Survey data indicate that most, but not all, subjects understand the norm to be veneration of the dead, and most expect others to follow the norm. Many report a strong negative emotional response when asked to imagine the norm being violated. Sixty-two percent report they would definitely or probably ask the noncompliant to uncover. Focal follow data show that punishment is relatively rare, however, with the majority of behatted subjects going unreproached as they pass through the building. Both survey and observational data indicate there is a motivated minority that enthusiastically enforces the norm. (shrink)