Conference | Invited Speakers
John and Leda: An Appreciation
Investigators have recently begun to examine what expectations infants and toddlers possess about social interactions among individuals. One objective of this research has been to uncover what sociomoral principles might guide these early expectations. My collaborators and I have been exploring infants’ and toddlers’ expectations about three candidate principles in particular: Reciprocity, Fairness, and Ingroup. Our experiments use third-party situations involving primarily novel, arbitrary groups. Our results suggest two main conclusions. First, infants and toddlers generally expect interactions among individuals to unfold in accordance with the principles of Reciprocity, Fairness, and Ingroup. Second, significant developments occur as infants learn to order competing expectations from different principles to reflect the orderings selected by their social environment. These findings help shed light on the developmental origins and causal etiology of adult intuitive moral reasoning.
There is very little doubt that humans are more able to cooperate with unrelated partners than any other species. Evolutionary explanations for our cooperativeness focus on strong between-group competition and on our advanced cognitive abilities, including theory of mind, empathy, or moral. A standard tool to study human cooperation is to test the predictions of game theoretic models. Interestingly, these models do not make any explicit assumptions about cognitive processes that need to be present in order to achieve cooperative outcomes. I will present evidence that a variety of game theoretic concepts developed for humans like partner choice, punishment, social prestige and the ‘shadow of the future’ can be used to study marine cleaning mutualism. In addition, I will present some first insights about the cognitive processes underlying the cleaners’ sophisticated behaviours.
The anthropological interest in grandparents over the past 25 years among evolutionary-minded field researchers has increased steadily since Hawkes (Hawkes et al 1989; Hawkes et al 1997) and Hrdy (1999). There have been a number of important papers on this topic across the biological and social sciences and a useful summary of this literature can be found in Coall & Hertwig (2010). The majority of this literature has focused specifically on grandmothers. My paper will focus on grandfathers among the Yanomamö and how their efforts to aid grandchildren in fitness enhancing ways other than provisioning of food or pathways leading to reduced child mortality. The primary focus of this paper will be on the possible effect of grandfathers on their male agnatic descendants’ marriage success and whether these male descendants are coresidents in the grandfather’s local group. The paper also will analyze the distribution by 5-year age categories of the percentage of the population having living co-resident grandfathers. A major question is: “How many people have coresident grandfathers (and grandmothers) in their local group, a figure that decreases by age of the individual and by the rate of community fissioning into smaller, widely dispersed groups?” This paper is will be the first one that incorporates new data that the senior author collected in Yanomamö villages in the remote Siapa River Basin and will have several co-authors.
Face processing has received extensive research attention over the last 30 years, and as a result, our understanding of its cognitive, neural, and developmental basis is better understood than most other complex neurocognitive systems. Fundamental issues however remain unclear, and in this talk, I'll discuss results from developmental prosopagnosia, acquired prosopagnosia, and transcranial magnetic stimulation that shed light on some of these issues.
Education is broadly defined as the set of processes by which each generation of human beings acquires the culture in which they grow up. By this definition, education is part and parcel of our biological makeup, as we are the supremely cultural animal. An analysis of education in hunter-gatherer bands helps us understand how young humans naturally and joyfully educate themselves through their self-directed play and exploration. Research at a modern-day democratic school designed to facilitate self-education demonstrates that our hunter-gatherer educative instincts are fully adequate for education today, given appropriate environmental conditions. In this talk I’ll describe the human educative instincts and the conditions that optimize their operation in today’s world—conditions that are quite opposite to those of our standard schools.
On the classic view, human beings are eminently rational, processing immense amounts of relevant information to make carefully honed self-serving decisions, and to do so in consistent ways. During the late 20th century, that view was challenged by evidence from behavioral economists, who uncovered abundant evidence of irrational, inconsistent, short-sighted, and self-defeating decision-making. In this talk, I’ll present evidence for a third view -- that our decisions manifest what my colleagues and I call Deep Rationality. On this view, human decisions are biased, but those biases are not random and self-defeating. Instead, they are calibrated to evolutionarily relevant contexts. Biases such as loss aversion, which behavioral economists have taken as iconic examples of irrationality, actually wax and wane in functionally sensible ways, depending on currently active fundamental motives and other relevant life history variables.
In the 1970s studies of infancy and childhood among !Kung (Zhun/twasi) hunter-gatherers of northwestern Botswana yielded a distinctive characterization of their patterns of child care and behavioral development, and surveys of prior ethnographic literature suggested that core features of these patterns were seen in other hunter-gatherers. Over the past four decades excellent quantitative studies of various aspects of infancy and childhood in at least eight other hunting-and-gathering, partly hunting-and-gathering, or recently-hunting-and-gathering groups have made systematic comparisons possible. They have also led to challenges to the !Kung-derived Hunter-Gatherer Childhood (HGC) model, which may be summarized as the Childhood as Facultative Adaptation (CFA) model; it suggests that important features of hunter-gatherer childhood (e.g. degree of allocare, weaning age, indulgence of care, and how much children contribute to subsistence) vary so much with local ecological and demographic conditions that no generalizations are possible. This lecture considers these challenges, defends a modified version of the HGC model, and contextualizes it in the light of recent advances in our understanding of the evolution of human life histories and against the background of basic Catarrhine adaptations for infant and juvenile care and development. While child care is highly facultative in the range beyond hunting and gathering, variation is more limited in these cultures, which in some ways represent our environments of evolutionary adaptedness (EEAs), and which probably help explain the success of our species. While there is limited evidence for negative consequences of departures from this pattern (compared, for example, to the consequences of mismatch in diet), there may still be lessons to be learned from the HGC model.