In the process of cultural learning, people tend to acquire mental representations and behavior from prestigious individuals over dominant ones, as prestigious individuals generously share their expertise and know-how to gain admiration, whereas dominant ones use violence, manipulation, and intimidation to enforce obedience. However, in the context of intergroup conflict, violent thoughts and behavior that are otherwise associated with dominance can hypothetically become prestigious because parochial altruists, who engage in violence against out-groups, act in the interest of their group members, therefore prosocially. This shift would imply that for other in-groups, individuals behaving violently toward out-groups during intergroup conflicts become simultaneously prestigious, making them desirable cultural models to learn from. Using the mechanism of credibility enhancing displays (CRED s), this article presents preliminary vignette-based evidence that violent CRED s toward out-groups during intergroup conflict increase the perceived trustworthiness of a violent cultural model.
The explanatory gap between the life sciences and the humanities that is present in the study of human phenomena impedes productive interdisciplinary examination that such a complex subject requires. Manifested as epistemological tensions over reductionism vs. holism, nature vs. nurture, and the study of micro vs. macro context, the divergent research approaches in the humanities and the sciences produce separate bodies of knowledge that are difficult to reconcile. To remedy this incommensurability, the article proposes to employ the complex adaptive systems approach, which allows to study specific cultural systems in their ecologies and to account for the myriads of factors that constitute such systems, including nonlinear interactions between these factors and their evolution. On a specific example of religious systems, we show that by studying cultural systems in their contextual variability, mechanistic composition, and evolutionary history, the humanities and the sciences should be able to fruitfully collaborate while avoiding previous pitfalls of excessive reductionism, genetic determinism, and sweeping overgeneralizations, on the one hand, and pitfalls of excessive holism, cultural determinism, and aversion to any generalizations, on the other hand.