Harsh childhood environmental characteristics predict exploitation and retaliation in humans

Michael McCullough, Eric J. Pedersen, Jaclyn M. Schroder, Benjamin A. Tabak, Charles S Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Across andwithin societies,people vary intheirpropensities towards exploitative and retaliatory defection in potentially cooperative interaction.We hypothesized that this variation reflects adaptive responses to variation in cues during childhood that life will be harsh, unstable and short-cues that probabilistically indicate that it is in one's fitness interests to exploit co-operators and to retaliate quickly against defectors. Here, we show that childhood exposure to family neglect, conflict and violence, and to neighbourhood crime, were positively associated for men (but not women) with exploitation of an interaction partner and retaliatory defection after that partner began to defect. The associations between childhood environment and both forms of defection for men appeared to be mediated by participants' endorsement of a 'code of honour'. These results suggest that individual differences in mutual benefit cooperation are not merely due to genetic noise, random developmental variation or the operation of domain-general cultural learning mechanisms, but rather, might reflect the adaptive calibration of social strategies to local social-ecological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume280
Issue number1750
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

Fingerprint

Crime
crime
violence
childhood
Cues
defect
fitness
learning
Calibration
calibration
Family Conflict
Defects
Social Conditions
Violence
Individuality
Noise
operator regions
Learning
cooperatives
family

Keywords

  • Childhood environment
  • Code of honour
  • Cooperation
  • Exploitation
  • Life history
  • Retaliation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Harsh childhood environmental characteristics predict exploitation and retaliation in humans. / McCullough, Michael; Pedersen, Eric J.; Schroder, Jaclyn M.; Tabak, Benjamin A.; Carver, Charles S.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 280, No. 1750, 01.01.2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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