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date: 25 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

All human societies throughout evolutionary history have depended on prosocial and cooperative behavior to ensure their survival and perpetuation. Cultures, therefore, are centered on the practices, norms, and institutions developed to ensure prosociality, though they differ in the kind, degree, and organization of such practices. This chapter begins by discussing the contribution of culture and cultural variability among early small societies, toward the development, spread, and prevalence of prosociality across the human species. The authors draw on the cultural adaptation literature, which argues that social advantages offered by cooperation promoted prosociality at the group and individual levels. Cooperation became ensured through the establishment of social norms and punishment for their violation. The authors review a range of cultural differences in prosocial behavior, including fairness and sanctioning of defection in economic games, examining cross-cultural findings among both preindustrial and postindustrial societies. Finally, they explore the role of cultural orientation and syndromes, as well as social, economic, and structural influences on cultural differences in prosociality.

Keywords: culture, cooperation, helping, reciprocity, altruistic punishment, individualism/collectivism, interdependence, economic games, social dilemmas, cross-cultural behavioral research

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