Social anthropology


Social anthropology is the subdiscipline of anthropology that investigates the cultural properties of human societies. Topics include cultural norms, morals, laws and customs, and there is a particular focus on the comparative study of non-industrialised societies.

Latest Research and Reviews

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    What would motivate someone to willingly enter frontline combat against the Islamic State? New research finds three compelling reasons: commitment to some sacred values, forsaking commitment to their own kin for those same values, and belief in the spiritual strength of one’s own group compared to that of the enemy.

    • John G. Horgan
  • News and Views |

    How robust is the perceived association between immorality and atheism? Studies across 13 countries demonstrate that immoral behaviour is intuitively associated with atheism: people routinely assume that an immoral person is likely to be an atheist, and this effect is consistent across a wide range of societies, though with notable variation.

    • Adam B. Cohen
    •  & Jordan W. Moon
  • Comments and Opinion |

    Europe has witnessed an increase in covert cultural racism that is reflected in recent political turmoil in its nation-states. Far-right movements and populists are exploiting fear about existential and ontological threats to spur the exclusion of unwanted ‘others’, such as Muslims, Roma, and refugees.

    • Catarina Kinnvall
  • News and Views |

    Social learning is a crucial building block of human culture, but how and why do people vary in their propensity to learn from others? Experiments in Ethiopia suggest that pastoralists rely more on others' knowledge than do horticulturalists.

    • Alex Mesoudi
  • Comments and Opinion |

    Natural landscapes are shaped by frequent moderate-sized events, except for the rare catastrophe. Human modifications to the Earth's surface are, compared with natural processes, increasingly catastrophic.

    • Richard Guthrie
    Nature Geoscience 8, 421–422