Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


The World Cultures eJournal welcomes articles, data, and comparative research material dealing with any aspect of human behavior. Publication of any comparative database, regional or worldwide, will be considered. Submissions of programs and teaching materials are welcomed, as are communications on research, coding, sources, and other materials of interests to comparative researchers.


The Words of Our Ancestors: Kinship, Tradition, and Moral Codes

In this paper we use the cross-cultural record to identify the behavioral rules of conduct, and the system supporting those rules, that are found in traditional societies, such as tribal societies. We then draw on the historical record to identify the behavioral rules of conduct, and the system supporting those rules that were found in the early state. The proposal tested here is that in traditional societies the behavioral rules of conduct and the systems that support them (e.g., processes for identifying guilt, punishing offenders, enacting legislation, preventing conflict) are aimed at promoting enduring, cooperative relationships among individuals who are identified as kin through common ancestry. The assumption underlying this proposal is that once human females increased their investment in offspring, cultural strategies to protect those offspring became more important. A moral system, which is the term we use to refer to the early system of behavioral codes, protected offspring by turning conspecific threats into the protectors, providers, and educators of children. It did this by creating a strong kinship system, the members of which were bound by common ancestry (actual or metaphorical), thus tying individuals into enduring, cooperative relationships by using culture to encourage them to honor ongoing duties to one another. This kinship-based moral system is significantly different from that found in societies in which the majority of interactions are with non-kin, interactions often center on the exchange of good and services, and traditions have largely been broken down. We refer to this second system as a system of law and argue that this distinction between moral and legal systems has implications for attempts to explain the evolutionary basis of human cooperation.

Cross-Cultural Comparison of Family Size and Composition between Muslim and Santal Communities in Rural Bangladesh

Every family adapts from one generation to another to specific environment in which they live and meet their human needs. In so doing, the couples of the family desire and plan ideal family size and composition and reproduce accordingly. They continue their reproductive behavior until they acquire planned family size. This paper, based on primary data collected from March to October, 2005 including 100 couples chosen by Cluster random sample (70 couples from Muslim community and 30 couples from Santal community), is an attempt to compare and explain family size and composition: ideal, actual, expected and adoption practice between Muslim and Santal communities in rural Bangladesh. Average current age of the study participants was 37.89 for husband and 29.89 for wife of the Muslim sample and 38.39 for husband and 29.04 for wife of the Santal sample. The analyses of independent sample t-tests revealed that there are significant differences in ideal, and expected family size and composition as well as adoption practice, but significant similarities in actual and usual family size and composition between the two communities selected.

Does the Twenty Statements Test Elicit Self-Concept Aspects that are Most Descriptive?

The Twenty Statements Test (TST) is widely used in cross-cultural psychology to elicit descriptions of the self-concept through free-format responses. This study examines whether the TST elicits descriptors that are most descriptive of the self-concept. Members of four ethnic groups in the United States participated, to assess the generalizability of the obtained patterns. Participants generated self-descriptions for the actual, ideal, and ought selves, then rated each description for its descriptiveness. Although a large proportion of self-descriptions were rated as “extremely descriptive,” some participants did not use the “extremely descriptive” rating for any of the descriptions they generated. Results suggest that descriptors generated earlier in the sequence are most descriptive, as are those generated in the actual self measure. The ratings of the extent of descriptiveness of the responses did not vary across four ethnic groups in the United States. These results are discussed in terms of the interpretation of TST-generated self-descriptions in cross-cultural research and other potential factors that influence which descriptors are elicited.

Society to 2050 AD: Anthropological Forecasts Extrapolating Correlates of Modernization

A measure of modernization m ≥ 0 is created applicable to both preindustrial and contemporary societies. A sample of 174 preindustrial societies are coded for m ≥ 0, time t, 1800 ≤ t ≤ 1965 AD, 25 binary constructs X = 1, 0 (e.g. X = high, low divorce rate) and one continuous construct X > 0 (population density). A sample of 189 contemporary countries at 2000 AD is coded for the same constructs. For the 25 binary constructs parametric logistic regression functions P(X = 1) = f(m, t) are fitted to the combined sample of 363 societies. The candidate predictor set is powers from 1 to 3 of m, t and mt. Backward selection (α = 0.05) is used to reduce the candidate predictor set where appropriate. Since the 174 preindustrial societies are equally distributed over the 19th and 20th centuries it is assumed that the fitted models hold over 1800 AD ≤ t ≤ 2000 AD, although not necessarily prior to 1800 AD. Functions P(X = 1) = f(m) are fitted to the sample of 189 countries at 2000 AD. For the continuous construct X > 0 regression models X = h(m, t), h(m) are fitted. Tests for monotonic trend over m are fitted to both samples for all 26 constructs - either a Cochran-Armitage test (for binary constructs) or a Spearman rho test (for the continuous construct). Forecasts are made by extrapolating the fitted models to out of sample values of the predictor variable(s) up to 2050 AD, or by linear approximation. Internal checks are created to enhance forecast validity. Extension of the forecast method to new subject matters is considered. Business and policy applications are suggested. Strengths and limitations of the