Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Contemporary attitudes toward migration are rooted in our evolutionary past; behavioral patterns from an evolutionary perspective—a negative attitude as well as openness—make sense

Factors affecting attitudes toward migrants—An evolutionary approach. Alexander Schahbasi  Susanne Huber  Martin Fieder. American Journal of Human Biology, May 26 2020.

Objective: To understand migration from an evolutionary perspective, this phenomenon has so far been mainly investigated in animal species. We therefore aim to investigate the potential evolutionary roots of attitudes toward migrants in humans.

Methods: We used data from the European Social Survey (n = 83 734), analyzing attitudes toward migrants by performing ordinal mixed models.

Results: We found that men have a more restrictive attitude toward migration than women, which increases with age and is stronger with a child in the household. Attitude toward migrants is also more skeptical if migrants have a different ethnicity and are from poorer countries. Increasing education and religiousness are associated with a more positive attitude toward migrants, particularly toward migrants of different ethnicity and from poorer countries.

Discussion: Although migration flows are a hallmark of the human species, previous findings suggest that (pre‐)historic migration flows were at times accompanied by conflict and violence, while at the same time, they insured survival by allowing cultural exchange and the avoidance of inbreeding. Accordingly, we assume that contemporary attitudes toward migration are rooted in our evolutionary past. We discuss the respective behavioral patterns from an evolutionary perspective, arguing that both—a negative attitude as well as openness—make sense.


Overall (integrating all countries and rounds of the ESS), we find that the majority of respondents prefer moderate migration (ie, “allow some to come”), particularly if migrants have the same ethnic background. A very open attitude toward migration (“allow many to come”) is only favored by a minority, and this open attitude is declining the more “out‐group” the migrants are (from 24.56% for migrants of the same ethnicity to 14.94% and 13.99% for migrants of different ethnicity and poorer countries, respectively). We further find that men are generally more skeptical toward migration than women. Odds ratios further indicate that this difference between men and women is higher if migrants have different ethnic background or come from poorer countries.
We would argue that these differences in attitudes between men and women may also be rooted in our evolutionary past. The genome—as a chronicler of past sexual encounters—reveals much about past (and particularly prehistoric) human interactions. In Europe, for instance, the main genetic component before the arrival of the Yamnaya consisted of the Anatolian farmers and small populations of ancient hunter gatherers. The arrival of the Yamnaya people in Europe about 5000 years age (Fu et al., 2016; Goldberg et al., 2017; Reich, 2018) dramatically changed the genetic landscape of Europe, particularly the paternal lines of heredity: the proportion of Y‐chromosomes inherited from the residential Anatolian farmers (who entered Europe approximately 8000 years ago) and the remaining ancient hunter gatherer populations (being in Europe since 40.000 years) declined rapidly after the arrival of the male‐biased Yamnaya migration (Goldberg et al., 2017) and even became extinct in some regions (Olalde et al., 2019). Both in Europe and also the Indian subcontinent, the Y‐chromosomal data indicate that the newly arriving migrants mixed with the resident female population, to the massive disadvantage of the local male population, leading to a virtual extinction of the residential male population (described in Reich, 2018). The Yamnaya themselves emerged out of an admixture of two populations some 7000 to 5000 years ago formed through a steady genetic influx from two populations from the south into the Steppe (Ukraine/Russia) (Haak et al., 2015). They grew in size and eventually headed west and also south‐east as far as India. But not only the Yamnaya expansion is an impressive example for a displacement of ancient residential male populations but also the Anglo Saxon invasion in Britain (Weale, Weiss, Jager, Bradman, & Thomas, 2002) and most recently the male dominated colonization of the Americas (Reich et al., 2012).
On the other hand, there are also numerous examples of—presumably—less violent prehistoric migrations, which eventually led to the admixture of different populations in the long run; such as the migration of Anatolian farmers, that led to an almost replacement of the resident hunter‐gatherer population and a very slow admixture among both groups. This rather slow migration of agriculturalist families over a longer period of time from Anatolia to Europe ~8000 years ago (Fu et al., 2016; Goldberg et al., 2017; Nielsen, Akey, Jakobsson, et al., 2017; Skoglund et al., 2012) first resulted in “parallel societies” of resident hunter‐gatherers and agriculturalist but later led to an admixture of both populations. In this case, no evidence of the sex‐specific admixture has been found. However, in both cases, after the Anatolian expansion as well as after the Yamnaya spread, data indicate a resurgence of the genetic representation of the residential inhabitants: during the Middle Neolithic, hunter‐gatherer ancestry rose again after its Early Neolithic decline, and then between the Late Neolithic and the present, when farmer and hunter‐gatherer ancestry rose after its Late Neolithic decline (Haak et al., 2015). Archeological evidence indicates that the rather slow migration wave from Anatolia seems to have been less violent compared to the Yamnaya expansion, but recent data also suggest that violence also has been occurred during the Anatolian expansion (Alt et al., 2020).
From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, however, the examples of violent encounters (Jantzen et al., 2011; Wild et al., 2004) might at least partially explain why men are more skeptical toward migration. In addition, the Y‐chromosomal asymmetric mixing contributes evidence to the long debated question if male aggression and violence would be adaptive or not, in particular, inter‐group aggression and killing (Archer, 2009, Daly, 2015, Macfarlan, Walker, Flinn, & Chagnon, 2014, Glowacki & Wrangham, 2015, reviewed in Wrangham, 2018). Clearly, the invading Yamnaya mended have reproductive and thus evolutionary benefits.
Our data also show that women are not per se more migration friendly compared tome but that in women more than in men, attitude toward migration changes with age. As women grow older, they become increasingly more skeptic of migration, whereas younger women are on average more migration friendly. This “friendliness” in younger women might be interpreted in the light of female dispersal (Huber, Zahourek, & Fieder, 2017). In the Paleolithic, hunter‐gatherer mating networks (Sikora et al., 2017) may have existed, which may have helped to avoid inbreeding by “marriage migration” between groups. Particularly, young women may have left their natal group to live with their husband's family (Seielstad, Minch, & Cavalli‐Sforza, 1998; Sterck, 1998; Towner, 2002), a scenario, where friendliness toward strangers would probably be advantageous. In addition, in the case of hostile group encounters, women have faced a substantially lower danger of being injured or killed (Wrangham, 2018) which was particularly true if they had a more out‐group friendly attitude. Furthermore, openness toward strangers may have fostered cultural exchange between groups that in terms of acquired and transmitted practices and techniques may have been advantageous for survival in hostile environments (Henrich, 2015). The finding that women may become more skeptical toward migration with increasing age, may also be interpreted on the basis of theory on general intelligence with a ability to learn new information and seek novel experiences at younger ages and a later life combination of these information and experiences to a “crystallized knowledge” (Geary, 2004). These findings indicate that selection may be acting at least to some extent antagonistically in men and in women (Connallon, Cox, & Calsbeek, 2010).
Overall, increasing age is associated with a more skeptical attitude toward migrants in both men and women. Although odds ratios indicate that the increase per year of life is rather small, over the whole life span, this effect accumulates to result in a substantial shift from a more positive to a more skeptic attitude. This finding is in line with the literature on changes of attitudes during the course of life (Visser & Krosnick, 1998).
The finding that having at least one child in the household (a rough proxy of ever reproducing) is associated with a more skeptical attitude toward migration of people of different ethnicity and from poorer countries indicates that individuals who have reproduced have a more critical attitude toward some kinds of migration compared to never reproducing individuals. We can only speculate why this is the case. Maybe parents are worrying for the future of their progeny, if the social tensions that are at times associated with migration are taken into account.
Our data further show that two parameters may have the potential to lower skepticisms toward migration: education and religiousness. Higher education is not only associated with a positive attitude toward migration, in particular toward migration of different ethnic background. Indicated by the odds ratios, the size of the effect of education, increasing from the lowest to the highest education level and leading to a higher acceptance of migrants particularly from a different culture, is comparable to that of sex. This migration‐friendly attitude may be interpreted as an effect of education per se, as education particularly in western societies is usually strong emphasizing mutual understanding and tolerance (Craft, 2017). However, individuals with higher education are usually better off in terms of resources compared to less educated people. As a result, higher educated individuals are usually less directly affected by migration, for instance, in terms of competition on the job or housing market (Collier, 2013).
Also religiousness is associated with a more positive attitude toward migration. Odds ratios indicate that over the full scale, religiousness has a comparable effect size as sex and education. This more positive attitude may be interpreted by the charitable characteristics of religion and the highly inclusive potential of some religions (Huber & Fieder, 2018; Norenzayan, 2013). This view is supported by the finding that the positive attitude is even higher if migrants have different ethnic background or come from poorer countries. Hence, this finding could be an indication for the integrative power of some religions even though religions also have a clearly excluding character, leading to intergroup conflicts (Seul, 1999). Nonetheless, the tendency to integrate individuals from different ethnic background maybe interpreted by the integrative power of religions during the agricultural revolution—when people with a different ethnic and cultural background settled into larger agglomerations (Norenzayan et al., 2016)—as well as inherent moral dogmas. However, our sample is by far mostly from predominantly “Christian countries.” In the models we calculated separately for the only predominantly Muslim country in our sample “Turkey” (only Muslims, parents born in Turkey and no experience of discrimination reported), we found no significant association between religious intensity and attitude to migrants whatsoever (data not shown).
As expected, a more right wing political attitude is associated with a more restrictive attitude toward migrants, particularly if migrants have a different ethnicity or are from poorer countries. As political attitude is encoded on an 11‐item scale, over the total range of the scale, despite rather small odds ratios, the association of the political attitude with the attitude toward migration is substantial. An association between right wing orientation and skepticism toward migration has also been demonstrated by Hatemi and McDermott (2012). Also, twin studies have shown that political attitude has a genetic basis (Hatemi & McDermott 2012) and in‐group favoritism has in part a genetic basis that may contribute to this trait. The variance in “in‐group favoritism” explained by inheritance in twin studies is varying greatly from 18% to 79% depending on the actual trait surveyed and how the in‐group has been defined (Kandler, Lewis, Feldhaus, & Riemann, 2015; Lewis, Kandler, & Riemann, 2014; Loehlin, 1993). Constructing a sum indicator of all three questions on the attitudes toward migrants and regressing political attitude on this indicator, attitude toward migrants explains about 16% of the variance in political attitude of the survey participants. Hence, as expected, the attitude toward strangers and political orientation is associated and explains a certain proportion of variance. Overall, we assume that political orientation is a trait that evolved in an interplay between genes and the environment (Alford et al., 2011; Hatemi & McDermott, 2012), that is, as a process of a cultural genetic coevolution (Richerson, Boyd, & Henrich, 2010). As political orientation has a rather strong genetic basis, both left wing and right wing political orientation should have brought benefits to the bearer from an evolutionary point of view. Accordingly, political orientation (both left and right) is related to the number of offspring, indicating reproductive advantages for the political extreme (Fieder & Huber, 2018). However, this pattern shifted in Western industrial countries to only a reproductive advantage for the political right (Fieder & Huber, 2018). In line with Stearns, Byars, Govindaraju, and Ewbank (2010), it can be assumed that this reproductive differential maybe suitable to indicate selective forces for political orientation.
The overall more reluctant attitude to migrants of a different ethnicity compared with the attitude toward migrants of the same ethnicity may indicate some sort of ethnic nepotism toward more similar individuals (Rushton, 1989, Salter & Harpeding, 2013), thus humans may have preferred individuals where they detected genetic similarity and that such a behavior may have overall enhanced fitness (Rushton et al., 1985, Rushton, 1989, Salter & Harpeding, 2013). On basis of data from 183 countries worldwide, Vanhanen found evidence that ethnic division tends to lead to conflicts of interest between ethnic groups and that the more a society is ethnically divided, the more political and other conflicts arise along ethnic line (Vanhanen, 1999), as well as intensities along religious borders (Salter, 2018). Also, ethnic nepotism maybe adaptive if it helps to secure resources and territory (Salter, 2002). Furthermore, religious and ethnic homogamy increases the average number of children and decreases childlessness (Fieder & Huber, 2016b; Huber & Fieder, 2018). It has been demonstrated on the basis of data from Iceland, that average offspring number decreases with genetic relatedness from second‐order cousins on (Helgason, Pálsson, Guðbjartsson, & Stefánsson, 2008) and thus during our evolutionary past moderate inbreeding may have led to reproductive benefits (Fox, 2015).
Ethnic nepotism may have some serious drawbacks, as individuals may become overall—or for certain traits—more homozygote with all the known consequences (Clark et al., 2019, Fieder, Huber, & Martin, n.d., submitted). Particularly in small‐scale societies of mostly not more than 150 individuals (Dunbar, 1993), the burden of inbreeding may have been large in the case of ethnic nepotism. Ethnic nepotism and the rejection of strangers, as well as a more open attitude toward strangers, always depend on the actions of others. Therefore, such an adopted strategy may lead to an evolutionary stable strategy under certain conditions (Smith, 1976) with different characteristics within a group. Ethnic nepotism has no concept of “ethnic kinship” (such as kinship between parents and children) that would make this more distant “altruism” reasonable. A way out of this dilemma has been proposed by Jones (2018), indicating that ethnic is nepotism expressed by a group toward their own kin and thus individuals of similar phenotypes. In‐group marriages in small groups fostered genetic relatedness also among individuals that are more distantly related than close kin and thus in‐group cooperation among individuals that are genetically more related as indicated by simple kinship. An argument quite closely related to Hamilton (Hamilton, 19641971) and West et al. (2011). Accordingly, William D. Hamilton also argued that successfully expanding groups are expected to evolve to some extent a degree of xenophobia (Hamilton, 1996). But ethnic nepotism may have resulted in high levels of inbreeding with all the related consequences and thus a process of balancing selection may have been beneficial: some individuals with a propensity for an increased out‐group cooperation.
Thus we assume that balancing selection may help to explain the attitudes toward strangers: both a more open attitude as well as a more guarded attitude may have led to benefits for the bearer, and so both attitudes have been kept in the population (Charlesworth, 2006; Fieder & Huber, 2018)—presumably at different frequencies, depending on the environment and circumstances. Evidence for a balancing selection on the “attitudes to strangers” maybe found in the polymorphisms of alleles that are associated with this attitude. If balancing selection would have been acting on alleles associated with attitudes toward strangers, balancing selection may have increased the polymorphism of loci that are associated with the trait “attitude toward strangers”. We are not aware of any GWA study that already identified loci associated with the attitude toward in‐group vs out‐group members; hence, this argument remains speculative at the moment. One hint for balancing selection is evidence from the World Value Survey: as in the case of political attitude, individuals with a more critical attitude toward strangers have on average more children (data not published). Balancing selection may explain different attitudes toward strangers, while differences between men and women may be additionally explained by a “sex‐specific selection”. The same trait may lead to different reproductive outcomes for men and women and thus for different selection pressures on the sexes (Connallon et al., 2010).
Our data set provides no information on the attitude toward strangers and pathogen prevalence, but pathogens may have also been important in shaping our attitude toward strangers. Infectious diseases clearly increased morbidity and mortality throughout human history; this may particularly hold true since the rise of agricultural societies and thus more dense human populations (Wolfe, Dunavan, & Diamond, 2007). Previous research demonstrated worldwide variability in pathogen prevalence, predicting some cultural differences ranging from food habits (Sherman & Billing, 1999), marriage structures (Low, 1990), parenting practices (Quinlan, 2007), and mate choice (Gangestad & Buss, 1993). Interestingly, it seems that attitudes of collectivism (eg, ethnocentrism, conformity) can inhibit the transmission of pathogens. Fincher, Thornhill, Murray, and Schaller (2008) demonstrated on the basis of worldwide data that the regional prevalence of pathogens correlates strongly positive with cultural indicators of collectivism but strongly negative with individualism. However, admixture and thus heterozygosity may help to cope better with diseases and infections, as heterozygosity seems to improve also the health condition of individuals and thus may increase protection against pathogens (Clark et al., 2019). This may especially hold true for major histocompatibility complex heterozygosity (Penn, Damjanovich, & Potts, 2002; Xu et al., 2019).
From an evolutionary point of view, a more negative attitude toward migrants and a positive attitude toward migrants make sense: In some cases, migration may include violence with detrimental outcomes for certain groups (particularly men). On the other hand, isolation may lead to lack of cultural exchange and to an increase in inbreeding.1Considering the size of populations in contemporary Europe, inbreeding avoidance has to be considered an evolutionary inherited trait as it has limited relevance today. Also, the necessity of cultural exchange to thrive (Henrich, 2015) has been altered by contemporary technology allowing global communication and information exchange.
Our findings are also in line with Eibl‐Eibesfeldt, who suggested that with regard to strangers, humans are “an ambivalent species,” displaying both timidity and interest—particularly in the case of recurring interactions (Eibl‐Eibesfeldt, 1986). Thus, in our evolutionary history, both traits may have been crucial for survival and we assume that both—evolutionary acquired—predispositions are still present in contemporary populations and influence the perception of migration flows. Migration‐friendly vs migration‐skeptical attitude may serve as an example of a genetic cultural coevolution (Henrich, 2015; Richerson et al., 2010). As our data are based on European populations, our conclusions are, of course, limited to this group.
To conclude, we would like to stress that it is of utmost importance to note that evolutionary acquired mind‐sets are not a predicament. Human behavior has in many ways improved during the history of our species, taming detrimental instincts and making us “better angels or our nature” as Steven Pinker put it (Pinker, 2011).

On the Limited Generality of Air Pollution and Anxiety as Causal Determinants of Unethical Behavior: Lu, Lee, Gino, and Galinsky's theory is incompatible with other evidence and thus overly broad

On the Limited Generality of Air Pollution and Anxiety as Causal Determinants of Unethical Behavior: Commentary on Lu, Lee, Gino, and Galinsky (2018). Daniel W. Heck, Isabel Thielmann, Sina A. Klein, Benjamin E. Hilbig. Psychological Science, May 26, 2020.

Abstract: Lu, Lee, Gino, and Galinsky (2018) recently proposed a “causal effect of psychologically experiencing a polluted (vs. clean) environment on unethical behavior” (p. 340) and mediation of this effect by increased anxiety. Supporting their first hypothesis, Lu and colleagues reported a positive effect of air pollution on annual crime rates in 9,360 U.S. cities. Moreover, correlation analyses supported the proposed mediation by anxiety when dishonesty was measured after participants saw photographs of clean or polluted environments. Here, we argue that Lu and colleagues’ theory is incompatible with other evidence on unethical behavior and thus overly broad.

First, the hypothesis that air pollution directly causes crime conflicts with ample evidence that crime rates are higher in summer than in winter (McDowall, Loftin, & Pate, 2012), plausibly because of higher temperatures increasing frustration and aggression and changes in individuals’ activity patterns (Hipp, Curran, Bollen, & Bauer, 2004). In turn, air pollution is markedly higher in winter than in summer (Massey, Kulshrestha, Masih, & Taneja, 2012), which is mainly because of emissions from increased use of heating and vehicles. That seasonal trends of crime rates and air pollution are exactly opposed is difficult to reconcile with Lu and colleagues’ hypothesis of a causal pollution–crime link.
A more restrictive version of Lu and colleagues’ theory might be that pollution has incremental predictive validity for crime over and above seasonal trends. Indeed, Bondy, Roth, and Sager (2020) showed that the Air Quality Index (AQI) has incremental validity beyond temperature and other control variables on crime. However, the effect was confined to less severe offenses (e.g., pickpocketing), and null effects occurred for more severe offenses (e.g., murder). Moreover, the AQI includes ground-level ozone, which is negatively correlated with the pollutants used in Lu and colleagues’ operationalization of pollution. Likewise, Herrnstadt, Heyes, Muehlegger, and Saberian (2018) showed incremental effects of ozone and particulate matter on crime rates when controlling for temperature. However, these effects were limited to specific pollutants and violent crimes (e.g., assault). The authors therefore concluded that “this seems to be a story about violence - not criminality in general” (p. 23). Overall, it thus remains unresolved whether pollution generally affects unethical behavior beyond seasonal trends. In Study 1, we addressed this question using monthly data on air pollution and crime rates.
Second, Lu and colleagues provide only limited evidence that anxiety causes unethical behavior. In their Studies 2 and 3, participants imagined living in a clean versus polluted city depicted on photographs. However, “experiencing” air pollution in this way might simply increase negative mood; thus, other emotional states (e.g., anger, negative affect, frustration) than anxiety may have increased unethical behavior. Indeed, “investigations of ‘an emotion’ are most probably investigations of several simultaneous emotions” (Polivy, 1981, p. 816). Thus, measuring both anxiety and dishonesty as dependent variables of the experimental manipulation and testing mediation can provide only weak evidence for the supposed mediator because of possible confounding variables (Fiedler, Schott, & Meiser, 2011). Other studies in which the causal effect of anxiety on unethical behavior was investigated by manipulating mood (e.g., H. Zhang, Shi, Zhou, Ma, & Tang, 2018) suffer from similar limitations.
Sidestepping the requirement for mood manipulations, we tested whether a stronger inclination toward experiencing anxiety is associated with increased unethical behavior. Specifically, in Study 2, we investigated whether trait anxiety as assessed by HEXACO Emotionality and its Anxiety facet (Ashton & Lee, 2007) is positively related to dishonesty. Originally, Lu and colleagues’ theory was concerned with state anxiety, defined as distress or physiological arousal in reaction to the potential for undesirable outcomes (Brooks & Schweitzer, 2011). However, state anxiety is (by definition) what individuals high in trait anxiety should more likely experience across various situations. Thus, unless Lu and colleagues are referring to some form of state anxiety that is independent of trait anxiety, their reasoning implies a positive correlation between trait anxiety and dishonesty.

Indeed, Kouchaki and Desai (2015) showed that both state and trait anxiety are positively linked to unethical behavior at work. Nevertheless, they explicitly limited the generality of their conclusions, because “anxiety sometimes may act as a motivator of ethical [italics added] behavior” (p. 371). Likewise, mortality salience (linked to the potential of experiencing anxiety) reduced dishonest behavior when honesty was made salient (Schindler et al., 2019), and social anxiety correlated only with some types of unethical behavior (Wowra, 2007). Other studies provided further evidence against a relation of trait anxiety (operationalized by emotionality, neuroticism, or emotional stability) to hypothetical and actual criminal behavior (e.g., Aseltine, Gore, & Gordon, 2000; Rentfrow, Gosling, & Potter, 2008; van Gelder & de Vries, 2012). In Study 2, we tested whether trait anxiety is also unrelated to incentivized dishonest behavior using a large-scale reanalysis.


Our analyses and reanalyses provided consistent evidence against the generality of a causal effect of air pollution on unethical behavior via anxiety. First, pollution showed no incremental effect on crime rates above opposing seasonal trends. Second, trait anxiety was unrelated to dishonest behavior. These findings clearly conflict with Lu and colleagues’ broad hypotheses, demonstrating that neither air pollution nor anxiety can be considered general causes of unethical behavior.
As a remedy, Lu and colleagues may specify more precisely which types of “air pollution” (e.g., experienced vs. objective, types of pollutants) and anxiety (e.g., specific versions of state anxiety, negative emotions) lead to different aspects of unethical behavior (e.g., dishonesty, violence). For instance, Lu and colleagues’ theory could be restricted to (a) specific pollutants, (b) a 6-month lag between peaks in pollution and crime, (c) a subset of crimes (even though we consistently found null effects), (d) specific emotional states elicited by their experimental manipulation, or (e) specific types of state anxiety that are independent of trait anxiety.
Indeed, such restrictions and the fact that they require further theoretical justifications (e.g., why should there be a 6-month delay?) may not appear attractive. However, theory revision is the straightforward option that fosters scientific progress. Thus, we encourage Lu and colleagues to revise their claims in terms of generality and scope and thereby exclude those portions of the “empirical content” (in terms of falsifiability; Popper, 2002) of their theory that our and other evidence conflicts with.