March 13, 2008

Pathogens and Collectivism

From the article:
Infectious diseases have been agents of morbidity and mortality throughout human history (Anderson & May 1991; Ewald 1994; Dobson & Carper 1996; Wolfe et al. 2007), and a growing body of empirical research indicates that people possess psychological mechanisms that serve the function of antipathogen defence. For instance, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and other specific forms of interpersonal prejudice appear to result, in part, from the operation of these mechanisms (e.g. Faulkner et al. 2004; Navarrete & Fessler 2006; Park et al. 2007).
Proc. R. Soc. B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0094

Pathogen prevalence predicts human cross-cultural variability in individualism/collectivism

Corey L. Fincher, Randy Thornhill, Damian R. Murray, Mark Schaller


Pathogenic diseases impose selection pressures on the social behaviour of host populations. In humans (Homo sapiens), many psychological phenomena appear to serve an antipathogen defence function. One broad implication is the existence of cross-cultural differences in human cognition and behaviour contingent upon the relative presence of pathogens in the local ecology. We focus specifically on one fundamental cultural variable: differences in individualistic versus collectivist values. We suggest that specific behavioural manifestations of collectivism (e.g. ethnocentrism, conformity) can inhibit the transmission of pathogens; and so we hypothesize that collectivism (compared with individualism) will more often characterize cultures in regions that have historically had higher prevalence of pathogens. Drawing on epidemiological data and the findings of worldwide cross-national surveys of individualism/collectivism, our results support this hypothesis: the regional prevalence of pathogens has a strong positive correlation with cultural indicators of collectivism and a strong negative correlation with individualism. The correlations remain significant even when controlling for potential confounding variables. These results help to explain the origin of a paradigmatic cross-cultural difference, and reveal previously undocumented consequences of pathogenic diseases on the variable nature of human societies.



Crimson Guard said...

I assume this would include Multiculturalism as well?

Suetonius said...

If I dare say so I think there is a correlation between haplogroup
e3b (or rather genes with their origin in cushitic e3b tribes) and tribal and collectivist thinking. At least when compared to europeans with no such influence or for instance afro americans. I'm not talking about outright racism or xenophobia but rather about the importance of the tribe in cultural, political and spiritual matters.

Groups which carry e3b in varying degrees are for instance somalians, Ethiopians, arabs, jews, albanians, gypsies, iranians, assyrians, greeks, turks, kurds, bulgarians, romanians, south italians etc.

Some signs of tribal thinking (and the number and type of signs that occur varies greatly among the above mentioned groups) is to me for instance a clan based society or at least the existence of clans or "ethnic communities" within a rather genetically homogenous society, diasporas identifying with the tribal group, a tribal religion or a tribal version of a non tribal religion, strong control of womens sexuality and clothing or at least over their marriage choices, an honour culture which punishes or excludes people who breake certain cultural norms. A criminal sector that is based on a family mafia system rather than on ad hoc cooperation between unrelated criminals.

My own point of view is that the golden path seems to be somewhere in between extreme individualism and extreme collectivism although variation is of course good in itself and there are certainly several golden paths.

Crimson Guard said...

What does e3b have to do with anything? Last I checked Hunter Gatherers were tribal as were Celts and Germanics ect. Furthermore, E3b has nothing to with "Cushites".

stuhaynes said...

My background is in an interest in herbs, which in turn led to research into parasites and ultimately to water borne pathogens. I've written a lens on Squidoo which is basically a working mans introduction to pathogens. It was writing this lens that caused me to find your blog. I wondered whether you'd be interested in havin a look?

Stu Haynes