Cultural consonance and body morphology: Estimates with longitudinal data from an Amazonian society



Researchers have hypothesized that the degree to which an individual's actual behavior approximates the culturally valued lifestyle encoded in the dominant cultural model has consequences for physical and mental health. We contribute to this line of research by analyzing data from a longitudinal study composed of five annual surveys (2002–2006 inclusive) from 791 adults in one society of foragers–farmers in the Bolivian Amazon, the Tsimane'. We estimate the association between a standard measure of individual achievement of the cultural model, cultural consonance, and three indicators of body morphology. Drawing on research suggesting that in societies in the early stages of economic development an increase in socioeconomic status is associated with an increase in mean body mass, we expect to find a positive association between cultural consonance and three anthropometric measures. We found the expected positive association between cultural consonance and anthropometric measures—especially for men—only when using ordinary least square (OLS) regression models, but not when using fixed-effects regression models. The real magnitude of the association was low. The comparison of estimates from OLS and fixed-effect regression models suggests that previous findings on the effects of cultural consonance on body morphology using cross-sectional data should be read with caution because the association might be largely explained by fixed characteristics of individuals not accounted in OLS models. Am J Phys Anthropol 143:167–174, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.