The development of decision-making across diverse cultural contexts
Boston College Department of Psychology
The human behavioral repertoire is uniquely diverse, with an unmatched flexibility that has allowed our species to flourish in every ecology on the planet. Despite its importance, the roots of this behavioral diversity — and how it manifests across development and contexts — remain largely unexplored. I argue that a full account of human behavior requires a cross-cultural, developmental approach that systematically examines how environmental variability shapes behavioral processes. In this talk, I use the development of decision-making across diverse contexts as a window into the relationship between the socioecological environment and behavior. First, I present the results of a cross-cultural investigation of risk and time preferences among children in India, Argentina, the United States, and the Ecuadorian Amazon, suggesting that market integration and related socioecological shifts lead to the development of more risk-seeking and future-oriented preferences. Second, I present the early results of a five-culture investigation into the ontogeny of social preferences — namely, trustworthiness, forgiveness, and fairness. Taken together, these studies help elucidate the developmental origins of behavioral diversity across cultural contexts, and underscore the utility of interdisciplinary research for explaining human behavior.