Universal norm psychology leads to societal diversity in prosocial behaviour and development

Bailey R. House, Patricia Kanngiesser, H. Clark Barrett, Tanya Broesch, Senay Cebioglu, Alyssa N. Crittenden, Alejandro Erut, Sheina Lew-Levy, Carla Sebastian-Enesco, Andrew Marcus Smith, Süheyla Yilmaz, Joan B. Silk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Recent studies have proposed that social norms play a key role in motivating human cooperation and in explaining the unique scale and cultural diversity of our prosociality. However, there have been few studies that directly link social norms to the form, development and variation in prosocial behaviour across societies. In a cross-cultural study of eight diverse societies, we provide evidence that (1) the prosocial behaviour of adults is predicted by what other members of their society judge to be the correct social norm, (2) the responsiveness of children to novel social norms develops similarly across societies and (3) societally variable prosocial behaviour develops concurrently with the responsiveness of children to norms in middle childhood. These data support the view that the development of prosocial behaviour is shaped by a psychology for responding to normative information, which itself develops universally across societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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