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Description: Why does human prosociality vary around the world? Evolutionary models and laboratory experiments suggest that possibilities for partner choice (i.e. the ability to leave unprofitable relationships and strike up new ones) should promote cooperation across human societies. Leveraging the Global Preferences Survey (n = 27,125; 27 countries) and the World Values Survey (n = 54,728; 32 countries), we test this theory by estimating the associations between relational mobility, a socioecological measure of partner choice, and a wide variety of prosocial attitudes and behaviours, including impersonal altruism, reciprocity, trust, collective action, and moral judgements of antisocial behaviour. Contrary to our pre-registered predictions, we found little evidence to suggest that partner choice is related to prosociality across countries. After controlling for posited shared causes of relational mobility and prosociality around the world --- environmental harshness, subsistence style, and geographic and linguistic proximity --- we found that only impersonal altruism and trust in people from another religion are positively related to relational mobility. We did not find positive relationships between relational mobility and reciprocity, generalised trust, collective action, or moral judgements of antisocial behaviour. These findings challenge existing evolutionary theories of human cooperation which emphasise partner choice as a key explanatory mechanism, and highlight the need to generalise theoretical models and controlled experiments to global samples.

License: CC0 1.0 Universal


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