Oliver Scott Curry was interviewed by Olly Conway for the BBC World Service on 10 February 2019 about a new study on 'Seven moral rules found all around the world'. The study, which was recently published in Current Anthropology, was co-authored by Oliver and a team from the School's Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA). The BBC interview can be listened to here (starting at 21.45).
The study has also received attention in the world's press, including The Telegraph, India Today, The Times of India and My Science.
Are there any universal moral values? This question has been debated for millennia, but now a group of anthropologists from the University of Oxford say they have the answer. Analysing over 600 ethnographic accounts of 60 societies around the world, they found evidence of (at least) seven universal moral rules: love your family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect property. Most of these these moral rules were observed in most societies and, crucially, there were no counter-examples: no societies in which any of these rules were considered immoral. What's more, the rules were observed with equal frequency across continents; they were not exclusive to ‘The West’ or to any other region. Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Oliver Scott Curry said: “What was surprising was that there was nothing surprising in the archives. Peoples varied in the importance they attached to different rules, and in how they implemented them, but the underlying principles were always the same. These results show that people everywhere face a similar set of social problems, and have converged on a similar set of moral rules for solving them