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Data from: Sex differences in costly signalling in rural Western China

Cite this dataset

Cairang, Dongzhi; Ge, Erhao; Mace, Ruth (2021). Data from: Sex differences in costly signalling in rural Western China [Dataset]. Dryad.


Numerous empirical studies suggest that individuals convey their commitment to communities and impart the qualities of being a reliable partner through costly behaviours. We collected religious practices data ranging from daily trivial practices to infrequent grand distant pilgrimages in an agricultural Tibetan village. We predict that 1) villagers who invest more in religious practices are more likely to be nominated as having various prosocial qualities. 2) Investment in grand distant pilgrimages has more efficacy than daily trivial religious acts on recognition of prosocial qualities. 3) The males are more likely to receive nominations than females across all prosocial traits. Using Hurdle Models and Exponential Random Graph Models, we found that religious practice is mediated by demographic factors like wealth rank, age, and the gender. Daily religious investment positively associates with nominations of devoutness, but not with other prosocial traits. Distant pilgrimage positively associates with nominations of devoutness, as well as other prosocial traits. Females are inclined to prefer investing in daily religious acts, but males are inclined to invest in distant pilgrimages. Generally, females receive fewer nominations than males across all prosocial traits.


The demographic census contained the basic individual information such as name, gender, age, ethnic group, ever being a monk, educational level, marital status, birthplace, number of siblings and children (in or out of the household) and occupation; kinship information, as well as the religious weights questions for measuring the religiosity; financial position (month income, source of revenue) and the religious investment conditions.

The reputational nomination and religious practices questionnaire were collected after the demographic data. Individuals were asked to nominate those who have the following prosocial traits: Devout, Generous, Good character, Hardworking. They were also asked about the specific frequencies and locations of religious practices. We then divided these practices into two categories, grand distant pilgrimage, and daily trivial practices (local pilgrimage, accounting beads, prostrating, burning, and fasting).