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Morality Is Both Cultural And Genetic

26 Feb

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Another post on morality!

From the BPS Research Digest:

Up until about the age of seven, children across the world show similar levels of sharing behaviour as revealed by their choices in a simple economic game. The finding comes courtesy of Bailey House and his colleagues who tested 326 children aged three to fourteen from six different cultural groups: urban Americans from Los Angeles; horticultural Shuar from Ecuador; horticultural and marine foraging Fijians from Yasawa Island; hunter-gathering Akas from the Central African Republic; pastoral, horticultural Himbas from Namibia; and hunter-gatherer Martus from Australia.

[…]

The older children’s choices tended to mirror the behaviour of the adults from their culture on similar games, suggesting they were gradually acquiring the social norms around altruism and reciprocity for their specific society.

The emergence of cultural differences in the older children’s choices only appeared for this costly version of the game, in which giving to another person meant sacrificing their own gain. In a different version, in which they could be generous at no cost to themselves, no such differences emerged across cultures.

This makes sense, to me, of how pro-social behavior (which includes religiosity) is partially genetic and partially cultural. This also seems to imply that the crucial time to either inculcate or inject religious belief to maximum effect would be around three years old up until teenage years. Of course, religious groups already know that.

This also feeds into a tangentially related finding. Strong religious beliefs may drive self-perception of being addicted to online pornography:

“This is one of the first studies to examine the link between perceptions of addiction to online pornography and religious beliefs,” said Joshua Grubbs, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study.

The research, “Transgression as Addiction: Religiosity and Moral Disapproval as Predictors of Perceived Addiction to Pornography,” will be published today in the journal, Archives of Sexual Behavior.

“We were surprised that the amount of viewing did not impact the perception of addiction, but strong moral beliefs did,” Grubbs said. He defined Internet pornography as viewing online sexually explicit pictures and videos.

[…]

Grubbs also discovered that half of the more than 1,200 books about pornography addiction on Amazon.com were listed in the religious and spirituality sections. And many of the books were personal testimonials [my link] about the struggles with this addiction, he said.

[…]

The information may help therapists understand that the perception of addiction is more about religious beliefs than actual viewing, researchers concluded.

“We can help the individual understand what is driving this perception,” Grubbs said, “and help individuals better enjoy their faith.”

In other words, extreme religiosity has a tendency to pathologize normal human behavior.

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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in cognitive science, morality

 

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