This list, compiled in 1989 and published in 1991 [by Donald E. Brown], consists primarily of "surface" universals of behavior and overt language noted by ethnographers. It does not list deeper universals of mental structure that are revealed by theory and experiments. It also omits near-universals (traits that most, but not all, cultures show) and conditional universals ("If a culture has trait A, it always has trait B"). A list of items added since 1989 is provided at the end. For discussion and references, see Brown's Human Universals (1991) and his entry for "Human Universals" in The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences (Wilson & Keil, 1999)

  • abstraction in speech and thought
  • actions under self-control distinguished from those not under *control
  • aesthetics
  • affection expressed and felt
  • age grades
  • age statuses
  • age terms
  • ambivalence
  • anthropomorphization
  • antonyms
  • baby talk
  • belief in supernatural/religion
  • beliefs, false
  • beliefs about death
  • beliefs about disease
  • beliefs about fortune and misfortune
  • binary cognitive distinctions
  • biological mother and social mother normally the same person
  • black (color term)
  • body adornment
  • childbirth customs
  • childcare
  • childhood fears
  • childhood fear of loud noises
  • childhood fear of strangers
  • choice making (choosing alternatives)
  • classification
  • classification of age
  • classification of behavioral propensities
  • classification of body parts
  • classification of colors
  • classification of fauna
  • classification of flora
  • classification of inner states
  • classification of kin
  • classification of sex
  • classification of space
  • classification of tools
  • classification of weather conditions
  • coalitions
  • collective identities
  • conflict
  • conflict, consultation to deal with
  • conflict, means of dealing with
  • conflict, meditation of
  • conjectural reasoning
  • containers
  • continua (ordering as cognitive pattern)
  • contrasting marked and nonmarked sememes (meaningful elements in language)
  • cooking
  • cooperation
  • cooperative labor
  • copulation normally conducted in privacy
  • corporate (perpetual statuses)
  • coyness display
  • crying
  • cultural variability
  • culture
  • culture/nature distinction
  • customary greetings
  • daily routines
  • dance
  • death rituals
  • decision making
  • decision making, collective
  • directions, giving of
  • discrepancies between speech, thought, and action
  • dispersed groups
  • distinguishing right and wrong
  • diurnality
  • divination
  • division of labor
  • division of labor by age
  • division of labor by sex
  • dreams
  • dream interpretation
  • economic inequalities
  • economic inequalities, consciousness of
  • emotions
  • empathy
  • entification (treating patterns and relations as things)
  • environment, adjustments to
  • envy
  • envy, symbolic means of coping with
  • ethnocentrism
  • etiquette
  • explanation
  • face (word for)
  • facial communication
  • facial expression of anger
  • facial expression of contempt
  • facial expression of disgust
  • facial expression of fear
  • facial expression of happiness
  • facial expression of sadness
  • facial expression of surprise
  • facial expressions, masking/modifying of
  • family (or household)
  • father and mother, separate kin terms for
  • fears
  • fears, ability to overcome some
  • feasting
  • females do more direct childcare
  • figurative speech
  • fire
  • folklore
  • food preferences
  • food sharing
  • future, attempts to predict
  • generosity admired
  • gestures
  • gift giving
  • good and bad distinguished
  • gossip
  • government
  • grammar
  • group living
  • groups that are not based on family
  • hairstyles
  • hand (word for)
  • healing the sick (or attempting to)
  • hospitality
  • hygienic care
  • identity, collective
  • incest between mother and son unthinkable or tabooed
  • incest, prevention or avoidance
  • in-group distinguished from out-group(s)
  • inheritance rules
  • insulting
  • intention
  • interest in bioforms (living things or things that resemble them)
  • interpreting behavior
  • intertwining (e.g., weaving)
  • jokes
  • kin, close distinguished from distant
  • kin groups
  • kin terms translatable by basic relations of procreation
  • kinship statuses
  • language
  • language employed to manipulate others
  • language employed to misinform or mislead
  • language is translatable
  • language not a simple reflection of reality
  • language, prestige from proficient use of
  • law (rights and obligations)
  • law (rules of membership)
  • leaders
  • lever
  • linguistic redundancy
  • logical notions
  • logical notion of "and"
  • logical notion of "equivalent"
  • logical notion of "not"
  • logical notion of "opposite"
  • logical notion of "part/whole"
  • logical notion of "same"
  • magic
  • magic to increase life
  • magic to sustain life
  • magic to win love
  • male and female and adult and child seen as having different *natures
  • males dominate public/political realm
  • males more aggressive
  • males more prone to lethal violence
  • males more prone to theft
  • manipulate social relations
  • marking at phonemic, syntactic, and lexical levels
  • marriage
  • materialism
  • meal times
  • meaning, most units of are non-universal
  • measuring
  • medicine
  • melody
  • memory
  • metaphor
  • metonym
  • mood- or consciousness-altering techniques and/or substances
  • morphenes
  • mother normally has consort during child-rearing years
  • mourning
  • murder proscribed
  • music
  • music, children's
  • music related in part to dance
  • music related in part to religious activity
  • music seen as art (a creation)
  • music, vocal
  • music, vocal, includes speech forms
  • musical redundancy
  • musical repetition
  • musical variation
  • myths
  • narrative
  • nomenclature (perhaps the same as classification)
  • nonbodily decorative art
  • normal distinguished from abnormal states
  • nouns
  • numerals (counting)
  • Oedipus complex
  • oligarchy (de facto)
  • one (numeral)
  • onomatopoeia
  • oversestimating objectivity of thought
  • pain
  • past/present/future
  • person, concept of
  • personal names
  • phonemes
  • phonemes defined by sets of minimally contrasting features
  • phonemes, merging of
  • phonemes, range from 10 to 70 in number
  • phonemic changes, inevitability of
  • phonemic change, rules of
  • phonemic system
  • planning
  • planning for future
  • play
  • play to perfect skills
  • poetry/rhetoric
  • poetic line, uniform length range
  • poetic lines characterized by repetition and variation
  • poetic lines demarcated by pauses
  • polysemy (one word has several related meanings)
  • possessive, intimate
  • possessive, loose
  • practice to improve skills
  • preference for own children and close kin (nepotism)
  • prestige inequalities
  • private inner life
  • promise
  • pronouns
  • pronouns, minimum two numbers
  • pronouns, minimum three persons
  • proper names
  • property
  • psychological defence mechanisms
  • rape
  • rape proscribed
  • reciprocal exchanges (of labor, goods, or services)
  • reciprocity, negative (revenge, retaliation)
  • reciprocity, positive
  • recognition of individuals by face
  • redress of wrongs
  • rhythm
  • right-handedness as population norm
  • rites of passage
  • rituals
  • role and personality seen in dynamic interrelationship (i.e., *departures from role can be explained in terms of individual personality)
  • sanctions
  • sanctions for crimes against the collectivity
  • sanctions include removal from the social unit
  • self distinguished from other
  • self as neither wholly passive nor wholly autonomous
  • self as subject and object
  • self is responsible
  • semantics
  • semantic category of affecting things and people
  • semantic category of dimension
  • semantic category of giving
  • semantic category of location
  • semantic category of motion
  • semantic category of speed
  • semantic category of other physical properties
  • semantic components
  • semantic components, generation
  • semantic components, sex
  • sememes, commonly used ones are short, infrequently used ones are longer
  • sense unified
  • sex (gender) terminology is fundamentally binary
  • sex statuses
  • sexual attraction
  • sexual attractiveness
  • sexual jealousy
  • sexual modesty
  • sexual regulation
  • sexual regulation includes incest prevention
  • sexuality as focus of interest
  • shelter
  • sickness and death seen as related
  • snakes, wariness around
  • social structure
  • socialization
  • socialization expected from senior kin
  • socialization includes toilet training
  • spear
  • special speech for special occasions
  • statuses and roles
  • statuses, ascribed and achieved
  • statuses distinguished from individuals
  • statuses on other then sex, age, or kinship bases
  • stop/nonstop contrasts (in speech sounds)
  • succession
  • sweets preferred
  • symbolism
  • symbolic speech
  • synonyms
  • taboos
  • tabooed foods
  • tabooed utterances
  • taxonomy
  • territoriality
  • time
  • time, cyclicity of
  • tools
  • tool dependency
  • tool making
  • tools for cutting
  • tools to make tools
  • tools patterned culturally
  • tools, permanent
  • tools for pounding
  • trade
  • triangular awareness (assessing relationships among the self and two other people)
  • true and fake distinguished
  • turn-taking
  • two (numeral)
  • tying material (i.e., something like string)
  • units of time
  • verbs
  • violence, some forms proscribed
  • visiting
  • vocalic/nonvocalic contrasts in phonemes
  • vowel contrasts
  • weaning
  • weapons
  • weather control (attempts to)
  • white (color term)
  • world view

Additions Since 1989

  • anticipation
  • attachment
  • critical learning periods
  • differential valuations
  • dominance/submission
  • fairness (equity), concept of
  • fear of death
  • habituation
  • hope
  • husband older than wife on average
  • imagery
  • institutions (organized co-activities)
  • intention
  • interpolation
  • judging others
  • likes and dislikes
  • making comparisons
  • males, on average, travel greater distances over lifetime
  • males engage in more coalitional violence
  • mental maps
  • mentalese
  • moral sentiments
  • moral sentiments, limited effective range of
  • precedence, concept of (that's how the leopard got its spots)
  • pretend play
  • pride
  • proverbs, sayings
  • proverbs, sayings--in mutually contradictory forms
  • resistance to abuse of power, to dominance
  • risk-taking
  • self-control
  • self-image, awareness of (concern for what others think)
  • self-image, wanted to be positive
  • sex differences in spatial cognition and behavior
  • shame
  • stinginess, disapproval of
  • sucking wounds
  • synesthetic metaphors
  • thumb sucking
  • tickling
  • toys, playthings
jan 9 2011 ∞
jan 10 2011 +