It has been proposed that one key function of pride is to guide behavior in ways that would increase others’ valuation of the individual. To incline choice, the pride system must compute for a potential action an anticipated pride intensity that tracks the magnitude of the approval or deference that the action would generate among local audiences. Data from industrial mass societies support this expectation. However, it is presently not known whether those data reflect cultural evolutionary processes or a panhuman adaptation. Experiments conducted in 10 traditional small-scale societies with widely varying cultures and subsistence modes replicate the pattern observed in mass societies. This suggests that pride is a universal system that is part of our species’ cooperative biology.Abstract
Becoming valuable to fellow group members so that one would attract assistance in times of need is a major adaptive problem. To solve it, the individual needs a predictive map of the degree to which others value different acts so that, in choosing how to act, the payoff arising from others’ valuation of a potential action (e.g., showing bandmates that one is a skilled forager by pursuing a hard-to-acquire prey item) can be added to the direct payoff of the action (e.g., gaining the nutrients of the prey captured). The pride system seems to incorporate all of the elements necessary to solve this adaptive problem. Importantly, data from western(-ized), educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies indicate close quantitative correspondences between pride and the valuations of audiences. Do those results generalize beyond industrial mass societies? To find out, we conducted an experiment among 567 participants in 10 small-scale societies scattered across Central and South America, Africa, and Asia: (i) Bosawás Reserve, Nicaragua; (ii) Cotopaxi, Ecuador; (iii) Drâa-Tafilalet, Morocco; (iv) Enugu, Nigeria; (v) Le Morne, Mauritius; (vi) La Gaulette, Mauritius; (vii) Tuva, Russia; (viii) Shaanxi and Henan, China; (ix) farming communities in Japan; and (x) fishing communities in Japan. Despite widely varying languages, cultures, and subsistence modes, pride in each community closely tracked the valuation of audiences locally (mean r = +0.66) and even across communities (mean r = +0.29). This suggests that the pride system not only develops the same functional architecture everywhere but also operates with a substantial degree of universality in its content.