Regional variation in pathogen prevalence predicts endorsement of group-focused moral concerns

Florian Van Leeuwen, JH Park, Bryan L. Koenig, Jesse Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

According to Moral Foundations Theory, people endorse “individualizing” foundations (Harm/care, Fairness/reciprocity) or “binding” foundations (Ingroup/loyalty, Authority/respect, Purity/sanctity) to varying degrees. As societies with higher pathogen prevalence have been found to exhibit more pronounced antipathogen psychological tendencies and cultural practices (e.g., conformity, collectivism), we hypothesized that pathogen prevalence may predict endorsement of the binding moral foundations, which may also serve to minimize pathogen transmission. We examined associations between historical and contemporary pathogen prevalence and endorsement of the moral foundations via multilevel analyses. Country-level analyses showed that even when controlling for gross domestic product per capita, historical (but not contemporary) pathogen prevalence significantly predicted endorsement of the binding foundations, but not individualizing foundations. Multilevel analyses showed that this pattern held even when controlling for individual-level variation in political orientation, gender, education, and age. These results highlight the utility of a functional–evolutionary approach to understanding patterns of morals across societies and individuals.
Translated title of the contributionRegional variation in pathogen prevalence predicts endorsement of group-focused moral concerns
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume33
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition

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