The Biogeography of Human Diversity in Cognitive Ability

Aurelio José Figueredo, Steven C. Hertler, Mateo Peñaherrera-Aguirre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


After many waves of out-migration from Africa, different human populations evolved within a great diversity of physical and community ecologies. These ambient ecologies should have at least partially determined the selective pressures that shaped the evolution and geographical distribution of human cognitive abilities across different parts of the world. Three different ecological hypotheses have been advanced to explain human global variation in intelligence: (1) cold winters theory (Lynn, 1991), (2) parasite stress theory (Eppig, Fincher, & Thornhill, 2010), and (3) life history theory (Rushton, 1999, 2000). To examine and summarize the relations among these and other ecological parameters, we divided a sample of 98 national polities for which we had sufficient information into zoogeographical regions (Wallace, 1876; Holt et al., 2013). We selected only those regions for this analysis that were still inhabited mostly by the aboriginal populations that were present there prior to the fifteenth century AD. We found that these zoogeographical regions explained 71.4% of the variance among national polities in our best measure of human cognitive ability, and also more concisely encapsulated the preponderance of the more specific information contained within the sampled set of continuous ecological parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-123
Number of pages18
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cold winters theory
  • General cognitive ability
  • Life history theory
  • Parasite stress theory
  • Zoogeographical regions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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