Fast life histories, not pathogens, account for state-level variation in homicide, child maltreatment, and family ties in the U.S.

Joseph Hackman, Daniel Hruschka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Parasite stress theory has recently been used to account for an array of cross-cultural differences in human cognition and social behavior, including in-group bias, interpersonal violence, child maltreatment, and religious adherence. Here, we re-assess the apparently ubiquitous effects of parasite stress on behavior observed in the U.S., using the cross-sectional, cross-population approach implemented by prior pathogen stress studies. Our results raise two challenges to previous findings. First, we show that the observed effects of pathogen stress in the U.S. data are due exclusively to one type of infectious disease - sexually transmitted diseases (STD) - while non-STD infections have no effect. Second, we find that controlling for life history measures of extrinsic risk and a fast life history erases the observed associations with family ties, interpersonal violence, child fatalities, and religious adherence. Thus, after appropriate variable specification, stratification, and control, U.S. cross-state population differences provide no support for the pathogen stress hypothesis in these various domains of behavior. Rather, the findings are more consistent with predictions from life history theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Fingerprint

Homicide
Child Abuse
Violence
violence
Parasites
life history
pathogen
pathogens
Social Behavior
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Cognition
Population
cultural differences
Communicable Diseases
sexually transmitted diseases
parasites
social behavior
parasite
cognition
infectious diseases

Keywords

  • Homicide
  • Life history
  • Pathogens
  • Religiosity
  • Sexually transmitted disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

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abstract = "Parasite stress theory has recently been used to account for an array of cross-cultural differences in human cognition and social behavior, including in-group bias, interpersonal violence, child maltreatment, and religious adherence. Here, we re-assess the apparently ubiquitous effects of parasite stress on behavior observed in the U.S., using the cross-sectional, cross-population approach implemented by prior pathogen stress studies. Our results raise two challenges to previous findings. First, we show that the observed effects of pathogen stress in the U.S. data are due exclusively to one type of infectious disease - sexually transmitted diseases (STD) - while non-STD infections have no effect. Second, we find that controlling for life history measures of extrinsic risk and a fast life history erases the observed associations with family ties, interpersonal violence, child fatalities, and religious adherence. Thus, after appropriate variable specification, stratification, and control, U.S. cross-state population differences provide no support for the pathogen stress hypothesis in these various domains of behavior. Rather, the findings are more consistent with predictions from life history theory.",
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N2 - Parasite stress theory has recently been used to account for an array of cross-cultural differences in human cognition and social behavior, including in-group bias, interpersonal violence, child maltreatment, and religious adherence. Here, we re-assess the apparently ubiquitous effects of parasite stress on behavior observed in the U.S., using the cross-sectional, cross-population approach implemented by prior pathogen stress studies. Our results raise two challenges to previous findings. First, we show that the observed effects of pathogen stress in the U.S. data are due exclusively to one type of infectious disease - sexually transmitted diseases (STD) - while non-STD infections have no effect. Second, we find that controlling for life history measures of extrinsic risk and a fast life history erases the observed associations with family ties, interpersonal violence, child fatalities, and religious adherence. Thus, after appropriate variable specification, stratification, and control, U.S. cross-state population differences provide no support for the pathogen stress hypothesis in these various domains of behavior. Rather, the findings are more consistent with predictions from life history theory.

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