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An evolved cognitive bias for social norms

O'Gorman, Rick and Wilson, David Sloan and Miller, Ralph R (2008) 'An evolved cognitive bias for social norms.' Evolution and Human Behavior, 29 (2). pp. 71-78. ISSN 1090-5138

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Social norms are a widely used concept for explaining human behavior, but there are few studies exploring how we cognitively utilize them. We incorporate here an evolutionary approach to studying social norms, predicting that if norms have been critical to biological fitness, then individuals should have adaptive mechanisms to conform to, and avoid violating, norms. A cognitive bias toward norms is one specific means by which individuals could achieve this. To test this, we assessed whether individuals have greater recall for normative information than for nonnormative information. Three experiments were performed in which participants read a text and were then tested on their recall of behavioral content. The data suggest that individuals have superior recall for normative social information and that performance is not related to rated importance. We discuss how such a cognitive bias may ontogenetically develop and identify possible hypotheses that distinguish between alternative explanatory accounts for social norms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: social norms; social influence; recall bias; conformism; cooperation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2011 09:49
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2022 00:58

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