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Science. 2019 Nov 8;366(6466). pii: eaau5141. doi: 10.1126/science.aau5141.

The Church, intensive kinship, and global psychological variation.

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Department of Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.
Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Department of Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1M1, Canada.


Recent research not only confirms the existence of substantial psychological variation around the globe but also highlights the peculiarity of many Western populations. We propose that part of this variation can be traced back to the action and diffusion of the Western Church, the branch of Christianity that evolved into the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically, we propose that the Western Church's transformation of European kinship, by promoting small, nuclear households, weak family ties, and residential mobility, fostered greater individualism, less conformity, and more impersonal prosociality. By combining data on 24 psychological outcomes with historical measures of both Church exposure and kinship, we find support for these ideas in a comprehensive array of analyses across countries, among European regions, and among individuals from different cultural backgrounds.


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