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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
Early online date29 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2018


aDepartment of English, Hokusei Gakuen University, Sapporo 004-0042, Japan; bDepartment of Behavioral Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan; cDepartment of Behavioral Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Chicago, IL 60637; dDepartment of Psychological Sciences, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23185; eDepartment of Sociology and Social Work, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo 108-8636, Japan; fInstitute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld 33615, Germany; gInstitute of Psychology, Universität Osnabrück, Osnabrück 49074, Germany; hCLLE, Université de Toulouse, CNRS, UT2J, Toulouse 31058, France; iDepartment of Psychology, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong SAR, The People’s Republic of China; jDepartment of Psychology, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul 3063, Republic of Korea; kDevelopmental and Educational Psychology, University of Castilla - La Mancha, Albacete, Albacete 2002, Spain; lInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest 1117, Hungary; mInstitute of Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest H-1053, Hungary; nSchool of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP, United Kingdom; oColegio Colombiano de Psicólogos, Bogotá 110221, Colombia; pDepartment of Psychology, University of Tartu, Tartu 50090, Estonia; qInstitute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6PE, United Kingdom; rCentre for Advances in Behavioural Science, Coventry University, Coventry CV1 5FB, United Kingdom; sElectronic Democracy Expert Group, Reanimation Package of Reforms, Kiev 02000, Ukraine; tDepartment of Psychology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan 20129, Italy; uInstitute of Public Health, Collegium Medicum of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków 31-531, Poland; vCentre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6140, New Zealand; wDepartment of Psychology, University of Porto, Porto 4200-135, Portugal; xInstitut für Psychologie, Universität der Bundeswehr, Munich 85579, Germany; yInstitute of Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden 2333 AK, The Netherlands; zManaging People in Organizations Department, IESE Business School, Madrid 28010, Spain; aaDepartment of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Delhi 110016, India; and bbDepartment of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands

FundersFunder number
Bielefeld University
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Leiden University
University of Castilla
University of Porto
School for Advanced Research
Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Uniwersytet Jagielloński Collegium Medicum
Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Oxford
Coventry University
University of Kent
Victoria University of Wellington
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science15H03445
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Sungkyunkwan University
Université de Toulouse
Center of Translational Genomics, University of Tartu
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Hokkaido University
Conseil National de la Recherche ScientifiqueUT2J
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
uInstitute of Public Health


    • Culture
    • Interpersonal relationships
    • Multicountry
    • Relational mobility
    • Socioecology


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