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1214151678

1214151678

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Published by Tomás Villalobos

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Published by: Tomás Villalobos on Sep 10, 2010
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THE CROSS-CULTURALSURVEY
GEORGE PETER MURDOCKYale University
F
ORANUMBER
of years, the Institute of HumanRelations at Yale
Universityhasbeen conductingageneral programof research in thesocialsciences,withparticular referencetothe areascommonto, andmarginal between, the special sciences of sociology,anthropology, psy-chology, and psychiatry.InI937, as oneofthe specificresearch projectsonthe anthropological and sociological side of thisprogram, the Cross-Cultural Survey was organized.'Ayear of previous experience in collaborating with othersocial scientistsinresearch and discussion had made it clear to theanthropologistsassoci-ated with the Institute that the rich resources ofethnography, potentiallyof inestimable value to workersinadjacent fields, werepractically inacces-sible to them. Workinginthe laboratory, the clinic,orthecommunity,thepsychologists, sociologists, and others made frequentrequestsofthe cul-turalanthropologistsforcomparativedataonvariousaspectsofbehavioramong primitive peoples. Sometimes they wantedperspective, sometimessuggestions,sometimesacheckontheirownscientificformulations.Intry-ingto assistthem,theanthropologistsfoundthattheycouldusuallycitealimited numberofcasesfromtheirownknowledge and giveanimpression-isticjudgmentas tothegeneralstatusofethnographyonthequestion.Forscientists, however,this was often notenough.Whatguaranteewastherethat the remembered cases wererepresentative,ortheimpressionsvalid?What wasneededwas access toadependableandobjectivesampleoftheethnographicevidence.Only rarelywasitpossibletoreferthe seekertoanadequate summaryofthe evidence; in the great majorityof instances, hecouldsatisfyhisscientificcuriosity only by resortingto the vastdescriptiveliterature itself andembarkingonaresearchtaskofdiscouraging magnitude.Anactualexamplewillillustrate the difficulty. Severalyears ago,agroupofphysiologists, workinginthe laboratory, had come toaseriesof conclu-sionswithrespectto therelationship betweenperiodicityofeatingandbodilyhealthasreflectedinmeasurementsofweight,stature,etc.It oc-curred to them thatthe literatureofanthropology should contain databywhichtheirconclusionsmight be independently tested, andtheyreferredtothe authorforadvice. Hewasabletotell them thatethnographerscus-tomarily reportthe relevant data oneatinghabits-the numberofmeals
1
Based on a paperpresented to the American AnthropologicalAssociation inChicagosDec.
28,
I939.
Forfurther information on the research program ofthe Institute of HumanRelations, and upon therelationofthe Cross-Cultural Surveythereto,seeM. A.May,"ReportoftheDirector ofthe InstituteofHumanRelationsforthe AcademicYears
I937-
I938,I938-i939,"
Bulletinof Yale University, eries35, XXVII
(I939),I-35.
36i
 
362AMERICANSOCIOLOGICALREVIEW
per day,theirtemporalspacing,thedegreeofregularityorirregularityineating,etc.-andthat physicalanthropologists presentthepertinent so-matological information.Since the material had been gathered, itcould beassembled and the crucialcorrelations drawn. To have done so,however,would have required severalmonths ofresearch, since the data hadnowherebeen summarized and itwould have been necessary to ransackanimmenseamountofdescriptiveliteraturetoassemble it. Understandablyenough,thephysiologistswerediscouragedfromundertakingthispromisingbutformidable task.Other sciences have systemsofabstracts, bibliographical aids,and quan-titiesofsecondarycollections, bymeans of whichthe researchercanquicklytrackdown the pertinent data andacquainthimselfwithpreviousresearchonany subject. Withafew notableexceptions,2 anthropologylackssuchaids.Itsmaterials arewidelyscatteredindescriptive reports,animmensenumberofwhich must be scannedifadequateinformation isdesiredonanyparticular topic. The factualdataofsociology areinasimilarlychaoticcondition.Itbecameapparent, therefore,that ifthese sciences weretobebrought to bear effectivelyinthecooperative research programoftheInstitute, a representativesampleofthe cultural materialsonthevarioussocietiesofthe world neededtobeorganizedforready accessibilityonanysubject.The Cross-CulturalSurveywasdeveloped,inpartto fillthisneed,inparttofacilitateadistinctivetypeofscientific researchwhich willbedescribedbelow.Thefirstproblemwas todeviseastandard systemofclassification forthearrangementand useofthe collected materials.Aftersixmonthsofpreliminary research, withthe aid of helpful suggestions from aboutahundredanthropologists,sociologists, and other specialists, theauthorandfivecollaboratorspublishedtheOutlineof CulturalMaterials.Althoughthis manual hasprovedofsome incidentalutilityinfieldresearch,it was innosensedesignedfor suchapurpose.Itwaswritten solelyas aguidefororganizing and filingourabstractedculturalmaterials,andforfacilitatingreferencetothe data alreadyclassified and filed.Since the publication ofthe manual,in
I938,
the staff of theCross-Cultural Survey has beenengagedintheactualassemblingofmaterials.Todate,thedescriptive dataonnearlyahundred cultureshavebeenab-stracted, classified, andfiled.Itishoped ultimatelytoassembleandor-ganizeallthe availableculturalinformationonseveral hundredpeoples,
2
Useful forspecialpurposes are themassive collectionsofFrazer, Sumnerand Keller,Thurnwald,andWestermarck, such classicmonographicstudies as those ofHahn ondomesticanimals,Nieboer on slavery,Schurtz on agegroupings, andSteinmetz onpunishment, andsuchrecentspecial treatises asthatofClementsontheoriesofdisease.Thesecompilations,however, donot lendthemselves to thedetermination of"adhesions" inTylor's sense, i.e.,correlationswithin a cultureindicative offunctionalrelationships, and thushavebut limiteduseinthetestingofscientifichypotheses.
 
THECROSS-CULTURALSURVEY363who willbe adequatelydistributedwith regard to geographyandfairlyrepresentativeofallmajortypes andlevels of culture.Althoughprimitivecultureswillpreponderatenumerically,becausetheyrevealthewidestrangeofhumanbehavioralvariations, therewill beafairrepresentationof thehistoricalcivilizationsof the past,of modern folkcultures, andof thecommunitiesstudied by contemporarysociologists.Foreachof the culturesanalyzed, theentire literatureis covered,includ-ingmanuscript materialswhenavailable.Insomeinstances,more thanahundredbooks and articles have been combedfor a single tribe orhistoricalperiod.Allmaterialinforeign languageshas beentranslatedinto English.Theinformation,if ofanyconceivable cultural relevance,is transcribedinfull-in verbatim quotationsorexact translations.The objecthas been torecordthe datasocompletelythat,save in rare instances,it willbe entirelyunnecessaryforaresearcher using thefilestoconsult the originalsources.Mereabstracts are deemedunsatisfactoryand areresorted to onlyin ex-ceptionalcases,whentheinformationis excessivelydetailedortechnical.The OutlineofCultural Materials isnota "trait list,"norare thefiles con-finedtodataontheitemslisted in it.These items aremerely suggestionsasto the kindsofmaterialtobefiled-orsought-underaparticularheading,and theymakenopretenseofbeing exhaustive.Specialpains aretakentopreserveintactthefunctionalrelationshipsofthe data.Whereverdivisionaccordingtothecategoriesofthemanual wouldbe arbitrary,or woulddestroythecontext,theoriginalaccount ispreservedintactandis filedinone place,with acarboncopyor across-referenceslip under eachothercategoryto whichthe information ispertinent.Eachfile, moreover,con-tainsa shortsynopsisofthetotalcultureto which anynotecan be referredforcontext.Thecollectionoforganizedandclassified materialsinthefilesoftheCross-CulturalSurveyshould proveuseful in nearlyevery typeofresearchwhichanthropologistsand other social scientistshavehithertopursued.Ifaninvestigatorwishestostudyaparticularculture, he will findallthe data,from whatsoever source,organized convenientlyforhis use.If he is inter-estedin atopic,hecan runthroughthe materialunderoneor morehead-ingsfor asmanycultures as helikes,and secure hisinformationinamerefractionofthe time requiredto combthe sources forhimself.If he desirestotestanhypothesis,hecansimilarly examine thematerialundertwoormorecategories and obtaina quantitativecheck inthe form of acorrela-tion.Across-culturaltestofthe physiologists'hypothesisonthe periodicityofeating,alludedtoabove, could,forexample, probablynow be madewithnotmorethantwodaysofresearch.Even regionalor distributionalstudiesarepossibleforareas,like the Gran Chacoof SouthAmerica,onwhich thefiles approachcompleteness.The Cross-CulturalSurvey, in short,shouldprove usefulin awide varietyof scientificresearchesfor which readyaccess

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