Look what the cat dragged in: do parasites contribute to human cultural diversity?

Behavioural Processes



If human culture emerges from the modal personality of a population, can global variation in parasitism that affects personality lead to cultural diversity among nations? The answer could help explain why people seem to vary so much from one land to another. Thomas et al. (2005) review how parasites manipulate behaviour, including human behaviour. To quote them, “The rabies virus lives in the brain, affording the virus ample opportunity to directly affect host behaviour. Rabid animals do show changes in behaviour, including increased aggression and biting.” Rabies affects a wide range of mammals and the aggressive biting associated with furious rabies appears to increase transmission. The personality transformation of infected humans can be horrifying, transforming loved ones into thrashing, baying beasts. Not coincidentally, in Europe, past periods of rabies outbreaks correspond to increases in werewolf trials. Although rabies can have a dramatic effect, the present rarity of human rabies cases and the availability of a vaccine, means that the behavioural effects of rabies are primarily an illustrative curiosity.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Look what the cat dragged in: do parasites contribute to human cultural diversity?
Series title Behavioural Processes
DOI 10.1016/j.beproc.2004.08.019
Volume 68
Issue 3
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 4 p.
First page 279
Last page 282
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