Human Universals

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Human Universals
Cover of the first edition
AuthorDonald Brown
CountryUnited States
SubjectCultural anthropology
PublisherMcGraw Hill
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)

Human Universals is a book by Donald Brown, an American professor of anthropology (emeritus) who worked at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was published by McGraw Hill in 1991. Brown says human universals, "comprise those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception."

According to Brown, there are many universals common to all human societies.[1][2]

Steven Pinker lists all Brown's universals in the appendix of his book The Blank Slate.[3] The list includes several hundred universals, and notes Brown's later article on human universals in The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences

The list is seen by Brown (and Pinker) to be evidence of mental adaptations to communal life in our species' evolutionary history.[3]p53 The issues raised by Brown's list are essentially darwinian. They occur in Darwin's Descent of Man (1871) and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), and in Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863). The list gives little emphasis to the issues of aggression, physical conflict and warfare, which have an extensive literature in ethology.[4] Brown's list does have conflict and its mediation as items. He also makes note of the fact that human males are more prone to violence and aggression than females.


  1. ^ Brown, Donald E. (1991). Human Universals. New York City: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-87722-841-8.
  2. ^ As quoted by Pinker
  3. ^ a b Pinker, Steven 2002. The Blank Slate: the modern denial of human nature. New York: Viking. Appendix: Donald E. Brown's list of human universals.
  4. ^ Lorenz, Konrad 1966. On Aggression. London: Methuen.


  • George P. Murdock in Linton, The Science of Man in the World Crisis (1945)
  • Murdock's concepts were updated by Donald E. Brown, Human Universals (1991)

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