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  Cross-cultural invariances in the architecture of shame

Sznycer, D., Xygalatas, D., Agey, E., Alami, S., An, X.-F., Ananyeva, K. I., et al. (2018). Cross-cultural invariances in the architecture of shame. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(39), 9702-9707. doi:10.1073/pnas.1805016115.

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Sznycer, Daniel, Author
Xygalatas, Dimitris, Author
Agey, Elizabeth, Author
Alami, Sarah, Author
An, Xiao-Fen, Author
Ananyeva, Kristina I., Author
Atkinson, Quentin Douglas1, Author                 
Broitman, Bernardo R., Author
Conte, Thomas J., Author
Flores, Carola, Author
Fukushima, Shintaro, Author
Hitokoto, Hidefumi, Author
Kharitonov, Alexander N., Author
Onyishi, Charity N., Author
Onyishi, Ike E., Author
Romero, Pedro P., Author
Schrock, Joshua M., Author
Snodgrass, J. Josh, Author
Sugiyama, Lawrence S., Author
Takemura, Kosuke, Author
Townsend, Cathryn, AuthorZhuang, Jin-Ying, AuthorAktipis, C. Athena, AuthorCronk, Lee, AuthorCosmides, Leda, AuthorTooby, John, Author more..
1Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society, ou_2074311              


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 Abstract: This set of experiments shows that in 15 traditional small-scale societies there is an extraordinarily close correspondence between (i) the intensity of shame felt if one exhibited specific acts or traits and (ii) the magnitude of devaluation expressed in response to those acts or traits by local audiences, and even foreign audiences. Three important and widely acknowledged sources of cultural variation between communities—}geographic proximity, linguistic similarity, and religious similarity{—}all failed to account for the strength of between-community correlations in the shame{–}devaluation link. This supplies a parallel line of evidence that shame is a universal system, part of our species{’} cooperative biology, rather than a product of cultural evolution.Human foragers are obligately group-living, and their high dependence on mutual aid is believed to have characterized our species{’} social evolution. It was therefore a central adaptive problem for our ancestors to avoid damaging the willingness of other group members to render them assistance. Cognitively, this requires a predictive map of the degree to which others would devalue the individual based on each of various possible acts. With such a map, an individual can avoid socially costly behaviors by anticipating how much audience devaluation a potential action (e.g., stealing) would cause and weigh this against the action{’}s direct payoff (e.g., acquiring). The shame system manifests all of the functional properties required to solve this adaptive problem, with the aversive intensity of shame encoding the social cost. Previous data from three Western(ized) societies indicated that the shame evoked when the individual anticipates committing various acts closely tracks the magnitude of devaluation expressed by audiences in response to those acts. Here we report data supporting the broader claim that shame is a basic part of human biology. We conducted an experiment among 899 participants in 15 small-scale communities scattered around the world. Despite widely varying languages, cultures, and subsistence modes, shame in each community closely tracked the devaluation of local audiences (mean r = +0.84). The fact that the same pattern is encountered in such mutually remote communities suggests that shame{’s match to audience devaluation is a design feature crafted by selection and not a product of cultural contact or convergent cultural evolution.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2018-09-10
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: 6
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1805016115
Other: shh1081
 Degree: -



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Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  Other : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
  Other : Proc. Acad. Sci. USA
  Other : Proc. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
  Abbreviation : PNAS
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: Washington, D.C. : National Academy of Sciences
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 115 (39) Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 9702 - 9707 Identifier: ISSN: 0027-8424
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925427230