Relational mobility predicts social behaviors in 39 countries and is tied to historical farming and threat

Robert Thomson, Masaki Yuki, Thomas Talhelm, Joanna Schug, Mie Kito, Arin H. Ayanian, Julia C. Becker, Maja Becker, Chi-yue Chiu, Hoon-seok Choi, Carolina M. Ferreira, Marta Fülöp, Pelin Gul, Ana Maria Houghton-illera, Mihkel Joasoo, Jonathan Jong, Christopher M. Kavanagh, Dmytro Khutkyy, Claudia Manzi, Urszula M. MarcinkowskaTaciano L. Milfont, Félix Neto, Timo Von Oertzen, Ruthie Pliskin, Alvaro San Martin, Purnima Singh, Mariko L. Visserman

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Biologists and social scientists have long tried to understand why some societies have more fluid and open interpersonal relationships and how those differences influence culture. This study measures relational mobility, a socioecological variable quantifying voluntary (high relational mobility) vs. fixed (low relational mobility) interpersonal relationships. We measure relational mobility in 39 societies and test whether it predicts social behavior. People in societies with higher relational mobility report more proactive interpersonal behaviors (e.g., self-disclosure and social support) and psychological tendencies that help them build and retain relationships (e.g., general trust, intimacy, self-esteem). Finally, we explore ecological factors that could explain relational mobility differences across societies. Relational mobility was lower in societies that practiced settled, interdependent subsistence styles, such as rice farming, and in societies that had stronger ecological and historical threats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7521-7526
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


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