What is it about?

Our experimental study among nomadic pastoralists of Southern Siberia (the Buryats) revealed significant sex differences in cooperation styles. Buryat men were more predisposed to cooperate in groups compared to Buryat women. A high fraction of men cooperated with other men unconditionally (did not make their behavior dependent on the strategic choices of their group partners). In contrast, women were generally less cooperative in all-female groups, more often applied occasional free-riding, and their actions were more context-dependent.

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Why is it important?

Our study was the first to test sex differences in cooperation in same-sex groups within a modern small-scale society. The results indicated that among Buryats, men tend to be more cooperative in same-sex interactions, in comparison with women. This raises the question of the universality of such tendencies in human small-scale societies, as well as the role of culture, environment and globalization processes.


This study is a stepping stone towards a more comprehensive investigation of sex differences in human cooperative tendencies in a cross-cultural perspective. A more recent follow-up study conducted by our research team in 2021 showed that the tendency of Buryat men to better cooperate in groups than Buryat women is a culturally-mediated phenomenon (in press). Research continues...

Victoria Rostovtseva
Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS

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This page is a summary of: Sex differences in cooperativeness—An experiment with Buryats in Southern Siberia, PLoS ONE, September 2020, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239129.
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