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Press Release 09-195

Self-Sacrifice Among Strangers Has More to Do with Nurture than Nature

Culture is more important than genes to altruistic behavior in large-scale societies

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In this schematic representation, garb is a proxy for social behavior.

In this schematic representation, garb is a proxy for social behavior. Researchers have found that in groups with diasporas, behavior is not necessarily genetically handed down, but rather it is something culturally absorbed. Immigrants to a new culture tend to "do as Romans do" after assimilating.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Lead author Adrian Bell is doing additional research in Tonga about the impact of culture versus evolution on pro-social behavior. He is shown at his fieldsite in Vava'u, Tonga.

Credit: Adrian V. Bell/National Science Foundation

 

Photo of Tongans collecting shellfish on the reef at low tide in Ha'apai.

Tongans collecting shellfish on the reef at low tide in Ha'apai. Seafood is a major staple for many in Tonga.

Credit: Adrian V. Bell


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Photo of school children in Tonga in class.

School children in the village of 'Ofu are shown in class. Tongans place a high value on education, boasting a 100 percent literacy rate even in the most rural areas.

Credit: Adrian V. Bell


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Photo of Pandanus leaves soaking in ocean before being made into crafts

Pandanus leaves are shown soaking in the ocean in Ha'apai. These will be dried and woven into mats that will be used for everyday wear, gifts at weddings and funerals, or for the market.

Credit: Adrian V. Bell


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