Purzycki, B. G., Pisor, A., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q., Cohen, E., Henrich, J., McElreath, R., et al. (2018). The Cognitive and Cultural Foundations of Moral Behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior, doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.04.004.
Abstract: Does moral culture contribute to the evolution of cooperation? Here, we examine individuals' and communities' models of what it means to be good and bad and how they correspond to corollary behavior across a variety of socioecological contexts. Our sample includes over 600 people from eight different field sites that include foragers, horticulturalists, herders, and the fully market-reliant. We first examine the universals and particulars of explicit moral models. We then use these moral models to assess their role in the outcome of an economic experiment designed to detect systematic, dishonest rule-breaking favoritism. We show that individuals are slightly more inclined to play by the rules when their moral models include the task-relevant virtues of “honesty” and “dishonesty.” We also find that religious beliefs are better predictors of honest play than these virtues. The predictive power of these values' and beliefs' local prevalence, however, remains inconclusive. In summary, we find that religious beliefs and moral models may help promote honest behavior that may widen the breadth of human cooperation.
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