All societies are held together by seven universal moral rules, which include deferring to superiors and respecting the property of others, Oxford University has concluded.
Although many western cultures are moving towards more liberal, less hierarchical organisations, the new research suggests that traditional power structures and basic values of charity and fraternity are the cornerstones of successful societies.
The huge study of 60 different cultures around the world found that all communities operate under seven basic moral codes.
Those universal rules are: help your family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly and respect the property of others.
Encompassed within the code would be caring for frail relatives, passing on property to offspring, going to war if needed to protect the group and respecting elders.
The character traits held for every kind of community, be they traditional hunter-gatherers or advanced western civilisations, helping to uphold civilised society and foster social cooperation, researchers found.
“Everyone everywhere shares a common moral code,” said Dr Oliver Scott Curry, lead author and senior researcher at the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, at Oxford.
“These seven moral rules appear to be universal across cultures because people face the same social problems.