What Can Cross-Cultural Correlations Teach Us about Human Nature?

Thomas Pollet, Joshua Tybur, Willem Frankenhuis, Ian Rickard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Many recent evolutionary psychology and human behavioral ecology studies have tested hypotheses by examining correlations between variables measured at a group level (e.g., state, country, continent). In such analyses, variables collected for each aggregation are often taken to be representative of the individuals present within them, and relationships between such variables are presumed to reflect individual-level processes. There are multiple reasons to exercise caution when doing so, including: (1) the ecological fallacy, whereby relationships observed at the aggregate level do not accurately represent individual-level processes; (2) non-independence of data points, which violates assumptions of the inferential techniques used in null hypothesis testing; and (3) cross-cultural non-equivalence of measurement (differences in construct validity between groups). We provide examples of how each of these gives rise to problems in the context of testing evolutionary hypotheses about human behavior, and we offer some suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-429
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number3
Early online date5 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


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