When are cross-group differences a product of a human behavioral immune system?

Daniel Hruschka, Joseph Hackman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Several scholars have proposed that behavioral immune responses can account for worldwide human diversity in several behavioral and cognitive domains. Testing such claims generally relies on observational, cross-population data sets, posing challenges for causal inference. In this paper we describe four key pitfalls to using such data to test hypotheses for cross-population diversity based on a behavioral immune system. These issues are associated with (a) representativeness of sampling populations, (b) statistical artifacts of aggregation, (c) clustered data, and (d) spurious associations through unmeasured variables. We argue that these issues can be mitigated through careful attention to research design, analytic strategies, and serious treatments of alternative hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-273
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Behavioral immune system
  • Comparative
  • Cross-cultural
  • Cross-population
  • Pathogen stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology


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