God's punishment and public goods - A test of the supernatural punishment hypothesis in 186 world cultures

D D P Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Cooperation towards public goods relies on credible threats of punishment to deter cheats. However, punishing is costly, so it remains unclear who incurred the costs of enforcement in our evolutionary past. Theoretical work suggests that human cooperation may be promoted if people believe in supernatural punishment for moral transgressions. This theory is supported by new work in cognitive psychology and by anecdotal ethnographic evidence, but formal quantitative tests remain to be done. Using data from 186 societies around the globe, I test whether the likelihood of supernatural punishment-indexed by the importance of moralizing "high gods' is associated with cooperation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-446
Number of pages37
JournalHuman Nature
Volume16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Keywords

  • cooperation
  • evolution of cooperation
  • gods
  • high gods
  • intentionality system
  • religion
  • sanctions
  • standard cross-cultural sample
  • supernatural punishment
  • world cultures
  • COSTLY SIGNALING THEORY
  • ALTRUISTIC PUNISHMENT
  • POLITICAL-ORGANIZATION
  • RELIGIOUS BEHAVIOR
  • HUMAN COOPERATION
  • DECISION-MAKING
  • NEURAL BASIS
  • EVOLUTION
  • SOCIOLOGY
  • SAMPLE

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