NCEAS Project 6640

Patterns in social behavior and cultural diversity

  • Michael E. Hochberg

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Sabbatical Fellow1st July—31st August 2003Participant List  

The 'tragedy of the commons' describes how individualism can result in hardship to a population as a whole. In an alternative scenario --'collective action'-- potential competitors are better-off cooperating for a common good, even if it is not obviously in their short-term individual interests. What can shift a tragedy of the commons scenario to one of collective action in human societies? Given complex social environments influenced by governments and media, migrations of peoples over different scales, and interactions among individuals who may be family, friends or perfect strangers, how can we ever hope to understand cooperation and attempt to nurture the factors promoting it? Despite a blossoming interest in theories of human cooperation, surprisingly, there has been no serious assessment of whether human societies should show characteristic patterns in social behavior and cultural diversity. I plan to spend a sabbatical year (June 2003-4) addressing this question, capitalizing on the fact that community ecology provides us with the necessary tools. Concretely, my project shall provide: 1) new models of human social change and 2) predictive equations and graphs of social behavior and cultural diversity. I will be doing one or more stays at NCEAS to carry out parts of this project.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Guernier, Vanina; Hochberg, Michael E.; Guegan, Jean-Francois. 2004. Ecology drives the worldwide distribution of human diseases. PLoS Biology. Vol: 2(6). Pages 1-7.
Journal Article Hochberg, Michael E. 2004. A theory of modern cultural shifts and meltdowns. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences. Vol: 271. Pages 313-316.
Data Set Hochberg, Michael E.; Cornell, Howard V.; Nettle, Daniel; Guegan, Jean-Francois; Choisy, Marc. 2006. Human cultural diversity - a cross-national data set. (Online version)
Data Set Lafferty, Kevin D. 2006. Age-adjusted prevalence, aggregate neuroticism, the cultural dimensions of uncertainty avoidance and masculinity among nations. (Online version)