Tattooing and Cross-Cultural Research

Return to Teaching eHRAF: Tile View | Table View

View exercise overview

Exercise ID: 4.5
Class size: Any
Level(s): IV
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Single subject specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Tattooing
Region selection: pre-selected
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from pre-selected list
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:
Samples: PSF, SCCS

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? No
Assignments for students to complete in groups? No
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

William Divale, Department of Anthropology, York College (City University of New York)

Go to: Part 1: Syllabus | Part 2: Outline of Basic Steps | Part 3: Outline of a Cross-Cultural Study Paper | Part 4: Outline of a Conference Paper

Part 1: Syllabus

Nature and Scope of the Course

Students will learn the basic techniques of cross-cultural survey research, and then apply these techniques while working on their own research project using the Human Relations Area Files as a database.


A two-thirds term exam will be given based on the reading assignments.


Your grade will be based on completing a series of assignments (15%), the two-thirds term exam (25%), and doing a cross-cultural study on your own (60%). The cross-cultural study will act as your final exam. Failing to attend class will affect your grade.

Office Hours

My office is in room 3A03 in the Academic Core. I am in the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from about 10:am to 5:PM. I will be happy to see you at any time I am not in class, in meetings, or seeing other students. You can also telephone me at the following numbers: OFFICE 718-XXX-XXXX or at HOME 212-XXX-XXXX, and on weekends at 802-XXX-XXXX. Please feel free to call me at the office or at either of my home numbers between 8:AM and 11:PM.

Required Texts

Divale, William
1991 How To Use The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) at York College.

1998 Pre-Coded Variables for the SCCS Sample. Dept. of Social Sciences. York College.

Ford, Clellan S.
1967 Cross-Cultural Approaches: Readings in Cross-Cultural Methodology. New Haven:
Human Relations Area Files Press.

Gray, Patrick, ed.
1999 World Cultures. Vol. 10, Nos. 1 and 2. Dept. of Social Sciences. York College.

Moore, Frank, Editor
1970. Readings in Cross-Cultural Methodology. New Haven: Human Relations Area
Files Press.

Murdock, George P. et al.
1987 Outline of Cultural Materials. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press.
5th Edition.

Texts have been ordered through the York College Bookstore. Additional readings will be required. These will generally be on library reserve, or on occasion copies will be passed out in class.

Lecture Topics

Kinds of Questions that Cross-Cultural Research can address

  • Descriptive/statistical questions
  • Questions about causes of a trait or custom
  • Questions about the consequences or effects of a particular trait or custom
  • Questions that are nondirective and relational

Formulating Cross-Cultural Theories and Measuring Traits

  • Cross-Cultural or Holocultural Theory Testing
  • The Logic of Theory Testing
  • Hypotheses
  • Concept Definitions

History of Cross-Cultural Research

  • Edward Tylor in 1889
  • William Graham Sumner: “The Science of Society”
  • The Cross-Cultural Survey
  • The Outline of Cultural Materials
  • The Human Relations Area Files

Types of Cross-Cultural Comparison

  • Geographical scope of comparison
  • Size of sample
  • Whether data used are primary or secondary
  • Whether data pertain to just:
    • one time period (synchronic comparison)
    • two or more periods (diachronic comparison)


  • Cross-Cultural Sampling
  • Cross-Cultural Data Bases
  • Ethnographic Atlas
  • Cross-Cultural Standard Sample Codes
  • Human Relations Area Files


1. How to minimize error in the design of measures

Systematic error
Random error

2. Minimizing the effect of ethnographer (or informant) error

3. Minimizing coder error

4. Minimizing error due to sampling: Galton’s Problem

5. Measuring Cultural and Behavioral Variables

Kinds of Numerical Scales
Defining Measures
Indirect Measurement and Cultural Variables
Using the Measures of Others
Developing Measures

6. Operational Definition and Replication

Using the Human Relations Area Files

  • Using the Outline of Cultural Materials
  • Subject Classification System of the OCM
  • Cross-Referencing Subject Categories
  • Provenance of Data
  • Data Trustworthiness
  • Quality of HRAF Sources
  • Working with Translated Sources
  • Using the Outline of World Cultures

Obtaining Data for Cross-Cultural Tests

  • Unit Definition and Unit Focus
  • Coding Notebook
  • Coding Traits
  • Transformation of Scales
  • Preparing Coding Sheets
  • Coding Checks and Coder Agreement
  • Unit Focus Control Factors
  • Data Quality Control Factors

Analyzing Data and Interpreting Results

  • Unit Focus Problem
  • The Language Boundary Problem
  • Community focusing
  • Time focusing
  • Regional Analysis
  • Data Quality Control Tests
  • Group Chance Risk Tests

Library Reserve Reading List

Divale, William
1975 An Explanation for Matrilocal Residence. In Being Female: Reproduction, Power, and Change, Dana Raphael, ed. The Hague: Mouton, pp. 99-108.

1976 Using Date of European Contact for Time-Lagged Variables in Cross-Cultural Surveys. Behavior Science Research 11:39-55.

1976 Female Status and Cultural Evolution: A Study in Ethnographer Bias. Behavior Science Research 11:169-211.

1977 Living Floor Area and Marital Residence: A Replication. Behavior Science Research 12:109-115.

Divale, William, Frosine Chamberis and Deborah Gangloff
1976 War, Peace, and Marital Residence in Pre-Industrial Societies. Journal of Conflict Resolution 20:57-78.

Divale, William and Clifford Zipin
1977 Hunting and the Development of Sign Language: A Cross-Cultural Test. Journal of Anthropological Research 33:185-201.

Driver, Harold E.
1969 Girls’ Puberty Rites and Matrilocal Residence. American Anthropologist 71:905-908. Includes additional comments by Judith K. Brown and Harold Driver.

Ember, Carol
1975 Residential Variation among Hunter-Gatherers. Behavior Science Research 10:199-227.

Ember, Melvin
1974 Warfare, Sex Ratio, and Polygyny. Ethnology 13:197-206.

1974 On the Origin and Extension of the Incest Taboo. Behavior Science Research 9:249-281.

Ember, Carol and Melvin Ember
1972 The Conditions Favoring Multilocal Residence. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 28:382-400.

Kloos, Peter
1963 Matrilocal Residence and Local Endogamy: Environmental Knowledge or Leadership. American Anthropologist 65:854-862.

Murdock, George Peter
1957 World Ethnographic Sample. American Anthropologist 59:664-687.

Naroll, Raoul
1968 Some Thoughts on Comparative Method in Cultural Anthropology. in Methodology in Social Research, H.M. and Ann B. Blalock, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill., Chapter 7, pp.236-277.

1971 The Double Language Boundary in Cross-Cultural Surveys. Behavior Science Notes 6:95-102.

Naroll, Raoul and William Divale
1976 Natural Selection in Cultural Evolution: Warfare versus Peaceful Diffusion. American Ethnologist 3:97-128.

O’Leary, Timothy J.
1973 Bibliography of Cross-Cultural Studies: Supplement II. Behavior Science Notes 8:123-134.

Otterbein, Keith F.
1969 Basic Steps in conducting a Cross-Cultural Study. Behavior Science Notes 4:221-236

1968 Internal War: A Cross-Cultural Study. American Anthropologist 70:277-289.

Otterbein, Keith F. and Charlotte Swanson Otterbein
1965 An Eye for an Eye, A Tooth for a Tooth: A Cross-Cultural Study of Feuding. American Anthropologist, 67:1470-1482.

1976 Sampling and Samples in Cross-Cultural Studies. Behavior Science Research 11:107-121.

Pasternak, Burton, Carol R. Ember and Melvin Ember
1976 On the Conditions Favoring Extended Family Households. Journal of Anthropological Research 32:109-123.

Roberts, John M. and Brian Sutton-Smith
1962 Child Training and Game Involvement. Ethnology 1:166-185.

Rosenblatt, Paul C. and Walter J. Hillabrant
1972 Divorce for Childlessness and the Regulation of Adultery. The Journal of Sex Research 8:117-127.

Rosenblatt, Paul C. and David Unangst
1974 Marriage Ceremonies: An Exploratory Cross-Cultural Study. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 5:41-56.

Tooker, Elizabeth
1968 Masking and Matrilineality in North America. American Anthropologist 70:1170-1176.

Van Velzen, H.U.E. Thoden and W. Van Wetering
1960 Residence, Power Groups and Intra-Societal Aggression. An Enquiry into the Conditions Leading to Peacefulness within Non-Stratified Societies. International Archives of Ethnography 49:169-200.

Whiting, John W. M.
1964 Effects of Climate on Certain Cultural Practices. In Explorations in Cultural Anthropology, Ward H. Goodenough, ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 511-544.

Wirsing, Rolf
1973 Political Power and Information: A Cross-Cultural Study. American Anthropologist 75:153-170.

Cross-Cultural Method Bibliography

Adams, Bert N.
1974 “Doing survey research cross-culturally: Some Approaches and problems” in Journal of Marriage and the Family, 36, 3, Aug, 568-573.

Barnes, J.A.
1975 “Cross-cultural survey method” in Current Anthropology v16, n2, p296-297.

Carroll, H.G.
1974 “Testing some assumptions of cross-cultural survey method regarding sampling and Galton’s problem” in Behavior Science Research, v9, n1, p17-19.

Clarke, J.A. & Henige, D.
1984 “The human-relations area files” in Behavioral & Social Sciences, v13, n4, p295-301

Crano, William D, D.
1984 “The human-relations area files” in Behavioral & Social Sciences, v13, n4, p295-301

Crano, William D.
1968 “An extension of Naroll’s linked pair solution to Galton’s problem” in American Anthropologist, 70, 2, Apr, 336-337.

Divale, William
1977 From Correlations to Causes: A New and Simple Method for Causal Analysis in Cross-Cultural Research. ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES vol.285:66-74. Vol. titled: “Issues in Cross-Cultural Research,” Leonore Loeb Adler, ed.

1976 Female Status and Cultural Evolution: A Study in Ethnographer Bias.

1976 Using Date of European Contact for Time-Lagged Variables in Cross-Cultural Surveys. BEHAVIOR SCIENCE RESEARCH 11:30-55.

1975 Temporal Focus and Random Error in Cross-Cultural Hypothesis Tests. BEHAVIOR SCIENCE RESEARCH 10:19-36

Dobbert, M.L., McGuire, D.P., Pearson, J.J., Taylor, K.C.
1984 “An application of dimensional analysis in cultural anthropology” in
American Anthropologist, 86, 4, Dec, 854-884.

Kitahara, M.
1982 “Path-analysis and hologeistic research” in Behavior Science Research,
v17, n3-4, p159-172.

Levinson, D.
1978 “Holocultural studies based on the human-relations area files” in
Behavior Science Research, v13, n4, p295-301.

1974 “Studies based on human-relations-area-files – annotated bibliography in Behavior & Social Sciences, v9, n1, p41-54.

Naroll, R.
1972 “Index to human relations area files – introduction” in Behavior Science Notes,
v7, n1, p83-87.

Naroll, R. & Michik, G.L.
1975″Hraflib – computer-program library for hologeistic research” in Behavior Science Research, v10, n4, p283-296.

Rohner, R.P. & Rohner, E.C.
1981 “Assessing interrater influence in holocultural research – a methodological note” in Behavior Science Research, v16, n3-4, p341-351.

Schaefer, J.M. & Evascu T.L.
1976 “Data quality and modes of marriage – some holocultural evidence of systematic-errors” in Behavior Science Research, v11, n1, p25-37.

Schaefer, JM.
1974 “Galton’s problem in a new holocultural study of drunkenness” in Behavior Science Research, v9, n1, p15-16.

Sipes, R.G.
1972 “Rating hologeistic method” in Behavior Science Notes, v7, n2, p157-198.

Vermeulen, C.J.
1975 “Dominant epistemological presuppositions in use of cross-cultural survey method” in Current Anthropology, v16, n1, p29-52.

Vermeulen, C.J.J. & Ruijter, A.D.
1975 “Cross-cultural survey method – reply” in Current Anthropology, v16, n2, p297.

Wagner, Richard A.
1989 “The rise of computing in anthropology: Hammers and nails” in Social Science
Computer Review, 7, 4, winter, 418-430.

Witkowski, S.
1974 “Galton’s opportunity – hologeistic study of historical processes” in Behavior Science Research, v9, n1, p11-15.