Evolution & Human Behavior
Parochial altruism (PA), or in-group favoritism paired with out-group hostility, is sometimes treated as a synonym for human intergroup relations. However, empirical data suggest that PA is highly variable—across individuals, across situations, and across groups. Here, we review theory and data on PA to explore the candidate sources for this variability. Along the way, we unpack assumptions (e.g., what constitutes a group?), identify precursors to PA behavior (e.g., context and internal states), and review evidence for the pairing of in-group favoritism with out-group hostility. We discuss phenomena with measurable impact on downstream behavior, including resource access and cultural institutions, but also flag how researcher expectations and methodological design impact reported variability in PA. We close by making recommendations for how researchers can reduce noise in the study of PA by checking assumptions and being deliberate in research design; this is key, as the PA literature is part of sensitive public discourse.