Prescott: societies without notable fondling of infants develop nonviolent adults

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The neuropsychologist James W. Prescott has performed a startling cross-cultural statistical analysis of 400 preindustrial societies and found that cultures that lavish physical affection on infants tend to be disinclined to violence. Even societies without notable fondling of infants develop nonviolent adults, provided sexual activity in adolescents is not repressed. Prescott believes that cultures with a predisposition for violence are composed of individuals who have been deprived - during at least one of two critical stages in life, infancy and adolescence - of the pleasures of the body. Where physical affection is encouraged, theft, organized religion and invidious displays of wealth are inconspicuous; where infants are physically punished, there tends to be slavery, frequent killing, torturing and mutilation of enemies, a devotion to the inferiority of women, and a belief in one or more supernatural beings who intervene in daily life.

We do not understand human behavior well enough to be sure of the mechanisms underlying these relationships, although we can conjecture. But the correlations are significant. Prescott writes: "The percent likelihood of a society becoming physically violent if it is physically affectionate towards its infants and tolerant of premarital sexual behavior is 2 percent. The probability of this relationship occurring by change is 125,000 to one. I am not aware of any other developmental variable that has such a high degree of predictive validity."

source: From the book 'Cosmos' by Carl Sagan; 1980