Why Do We Stereotype Others by Sex and Age?

by Oliver Sng, Keelah Williams, & Steven Neuberg


The study of sex and age stereotypes—the general beliefs we hold about others based on their sex and age—has had a long history. In a recent paper, we present a new perspective to thinking about this topic. Specifically, we propose that social perceivers are actually “lay adaptationists”. In other words, although lay perceivers are not aware of formal evolutionary theories (e.g., parental investment, life history), they nonetheless pick up on and generate predictions about how others’ sex and age influence their goals and behaviors.

From this perspective, perceivers categorize and stereotype others by sex and age, because another person’s sex and age are associated with their goals (e.g., learning, mating, parenting), which in turn are associated with distinct opportunities and threats they might pose (e.g., potential mates, potential mate competition). This generates several insights.

First, it is not sufficient for perceivers to be categorizing others in terms of just sex, or just age. This is because goals vary by the interactive combinations of sex and age (e.g., men are more oriented towards short-term mating goals than women are, but especially so at younger ages). To usefully represent distinct social opportunities and threats, perceivers should categorize others in terms of the combination of others’ sex and age.

Indeed, they do so. Using a memory recall paradigm often referred to as “who-said-what”, we find that perceivers are more likely to confuse individuals of the same sex or of the same age group (e.g., confusing women with other women instead of men, confusing 60 year-olds with other 60 year-olds instead of 20 year-olds). More important, they are especially likely to confuse individuals of the same sex and age (e.g., confusing 20-year-old women with other 20-year-old women instead of 60-year-old women or 20- and 60-year-old men). Hence, perceivers mentally group others not by sex or age independently, but by the interaction of both.

The same principle should apply to stereotypes—beliefs about how women and men of different ages are like. Indeed, in another set of studies, we find that too. For example, perceivers believe that men are more oriented towards seeking short-term partners than women are, but this sex stereotype is stronger for stereotypes of younger (e.g., 28-year-olds) than older individuals (60-year-olds). The reverse is observed for stereotypes of long-term mating orientation. Young women (e.g., 28-year-olds) are stereotyped to be more oriented towards seeking and maintaining long-term relationships than young men, but this stereotype disappears for stereotypes of older individuals (e.g., 60-year-olds). Hence, perceivers also hold interactive sex and age stereotypes.

Finally, the current perspective also has implications for thinking about certain widely studied sex stereotypes. A considerable literature has accumulated on sex stereotypes of agency and communion. Agency comprises traits that focus on self-assertion, such as being independent and competitive. Communion comprises traits that maintain harmonious social relationships, such as being caring and understanding.

Why are men typically stereotyped as more agentic than women? One explanation may be because men are stereotyped as more oriented than women towards short-term mating goals (as just mentioned above), and the pursuit of short-term mating goals likely requires more agentic behavior, such as competitiveness and dominance. If the sex stereotype of agency is indeed derived from sex stereotypes of short-term mating goals, then presenting perceivers with direct information that both men and women are similarly oriented towards seeking short-term mates should eliminate the sex stereotype of agency.

“Providing perceivers with direct information about the adaptive goals (e.g., mating, parenting) that male and female targets are engaging in seems to override prominent sex stereotypes of agency and communion.”

Indeed, that is the case. Perceivers presented with a male or female target, without any additional information, stereotype the man as more agentic than the woman. However, when perceivers are given information that a woman and a man are similarly spending time looking for short-term partners, the woman and man are stereotyped as equally and highly agentic.

A similar logic could be applied to thinking about sex stereotypes of communion. Why are women stereotyped to be more communal than men? One explanation is that the sex stereotype of communion may be derived from sex stereotypes of long-term mating goals (of women as being more oriented towards such goals than men), because seeking and maintaining long-term mating relationships requires communal traits such as kindness and care. If this is so, then perceivers presented with men and women who are similarly engaging in long-term mating goals should be viewed as similarly communal.

This prediction is borne out, too. In the absence of additional information, perceivers stereotype a female target as more communal than a male target, consistent with the stereotype. However, when told that both targets have and spend time with a long-term relationship partner, the male and female targets are viewed as equally communal

In general, providing perceivers with direct information about the adaptive goals (e.g., mating, parenting) that male and female targets are engaging in seems to override prominent sex stereotypes of agency and communion. Prominent sex stereotypes appear to emerge from people’s stereotypes about sex and age differences in the relative prominence of adaptive goals.

To summarize, perceivers categorize and stereotype by the interactional combination of others’ sex and age, and these stereotypes suggest that perceivers are lay adaptationists in certain ways. For instance, just as parental investment theory predicts that males in our species are more likely to invest in mating effort than women are, lay perceivers also “predict”, through sex and age stereotypes, that men (and particularly young men) are more oriented than women towards short-term mating goals and behaviors. These adaptive goal stereotypes may in turn underpin other stereotypes, such as sex stereotypes of agency and communion.

The findings outlined above may seem intuitive, and intuitive findings are sometimes devalued. But that the findings seem intuitive to you as a reader is itself something the perspective would predict, simply because you are also a lay adaptationist (and likely also a professional adaptationist!). In other words, you are likely also using the sex and age of others, interactively, to predict their goals and behavior. Hearing that people categorize and stereotype by sex and age in these particular ways should therefore be unsurprising.

The idea that perceivers may be lay adaptationists is useful beyond enhancing our understanding of the social perception of sex and age. In other work, we apply a similar approach for better understanding race stereotyping. Specifically, certain stereotypes of Black and White Americans may not be about race, per se, but instead may reflect what we call ecology stereotypes—beliefs about the traits of individuals who live in more versus less harsh and unpredictable ecologies. Supporting this, we have found that providing perceivers with direct information about a Black or White individual’s home ecology can override race stereotypes of traits such as impulsivity and aggressiveness.

Thinking about perceivers as lay adaptationists lends a new way of thinking about social perception and stereotyping. Stereotyping, in particular, is traditionally presented as an outcome of “lazy” minds trying to simplify the world. The current work presents a more nuanced picture. Social perceivers are sensitive to the interactions of sex and age in thinking about and predicting the traits of others. When making social inferences about agency and communion, perceivers also prioritize information about an individual’s relevant goals, over the general category an individual belongs to. Indeed, our stereotypes may be more strategic than typically thought.




Read the paper: Sex-age stereotyping: Social perceivers as lay adaptationists

Comparing Evolutionary Models of Sexual Initiation

by Kristin Snopkowski & John Ziker


Life history theory examines how organisms allocate energy throughout the lifespan.  While it was originally developed in biology, more recently a large number of researchers have begun to use life history theory as a way to examine phenotypically plastic responses to early life factors in humans.  This research has examined how family dynamics and stressors earlier in life influence ‘life history events,’ such as pubertal timing, age at first reproduction, age at sexual initiation, and more rarely, investment in offspring.

In this research, we tested a variety of different evolutionary hypotheses that have been proposed – frequently under the theoretical umbrella of life history theory – to see which were best at predicting sexual initiation among a sample of Canadian adolescents who were followed longitudinally since birth (over eight waves of data collection).  The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, provides a wealth of information about children and their families.  This allowed us to examine a variety of different factors that have been predicted to influence the timing of life history events (although, our analysis only examined sexual initiation).  This includes factors such as: childhood psychosocial stressors, such as parenting behaviors, socioeconomic status, stressful events; paternal investment indicators, including contact with father, parental divorce, emotional closeness with father; mortality cues, for example, health of caregivers, adolescent chronic illness; unpredictability, such as changes in childcare and household moves; social support, for instance, adolescent social support other than peers; prenatal factors, including birth health and gestational diabetes; and intergenerational conflict indicators, measured as having half siblings.

We utilized a model selection procedure where we minimized AIC scores to predict whether adolescents had engaged in consensual sexual intercourse by the ­eighth wave of data collection (age 14/15). After identifying the predictors that minimized the AIC score for each variable set, we ran all combinations of models (since we had eight sets of variables, this led to 256 different combinations).  We then examined all models within three of the best AIC score (indicative of having a similar level of statistical support) and calculated the importance score for each variable set.

“The lack of an association between paternal investment variables (frequently discussed as ‘father absence’) was surprising given the frequency with which it has been found in other contexts”

The results showed that psychosocial stressors (either early-life or adolescent), mortality cues, and intergenerational conflict variables were included in all of the top models. Prenatal factors were included in the top five models. Social support and unpredictability were common across top models (but not included in all models).  There was greater support for early-life psychosocial stressors over stressors during adolescence.  Paternal investment variables were not included in any of the top models.  Importance scores mirrored the AIC results: extrinsic mortality cues had the most importance, followed by intergenerational conflict, early childhood psychosocial stressors and prenatal factors. Social support and unpredictability predictors followed, with importance scores between 0.58 and 0.54.  Finally, paternal investment has the lowest importance (0.11).

As previous research has found, there was good support for early-life psychosocial stressors and extrinsic mortality cues being associated with sexual initiation by age 14/15. As predicted social support, unpredictability, and prenatal factors were also associated with sexual initiation.  Novel results of this study include the role of half-siblings and its association with sexual initiation, as predicted by intergenerational conflict models (a few recent papers have also found evidence of this).  The lack of an association between paternal investment variables (frequently discussed as ‘father absence’) was surprising given the frequency with which it has been found in other contexts (mostly western contexts, like the one we examined in this study).  It is possible that intergenerational conflict factors confound the effect of parental divorce, so it is important to include both factors in future models to detangle their effects.



Read the paper: “Sexual initiation among Canadian youth: A model comparison approach of evolutionary hypotheses shows greatest support for extrinsic mortality cues, intergenerational conflict, and early life psychosocial stressors


Getting Refunds for Flights and Lodging for Cancelled HBES 2020

Syndicated columnist, author, and longtime HBES member Amy Alkon here.

Around March 26, I saw tweets from grad students that American Airlines and AirBnb were refusing refunds for flights and lodging for June HBES, cancelled due to coronavirus. Other airlines may also be refusing to refund.

Delta, thankfully, is refunding money.

A number of us tried to use social media to get American Airlines and Airbnb to give refunds, but they didn’t budge.

There may be another way. I’ve just reached out to a newspaper colleague, syndicated travel columnist and author Christopher Elliott, whom I’ve known for 20 years and respect. On his nonprofit travel consumer advocacy website — Elliott.org — he takes on cases like this, and gets resolution, mediating between travelers and airlines. He has the power of the respect and readership he’s earned and big businesses often back down and reverse no refund policies.

Elliott tweeted back to me that he is open to considering taking this on as a case. Knowing him, I suspect he will take this on.

I have not personally lost money, but I suggest that some of you who have had refunds denied band together and collectively write to Chris via his help link at his website: elliot.org/help (This is the way he asks that requests for help be submitted.) I think that collectively writing him (at least two or three people banding together) makes this a more persuasive request (see end for contact information).

An important crux of your appeal, in my opinion: What many people don’t realize is that grad students and ECRs are often living on financial fumes, and the hundreds of dollars or more that are being kept by these companies are huge sums of money — especially at a time when gig work many were doing to make ends meet has dried up.

-Amy Alkon


If you are a student who is struggling to get refunded for flights and lodging related to HBES 2020, please contact HBES Student Representative Cari Pick (studentrep@hbes.com). Cari will be organizing a collective effort for those interested.


Note: This effort is NOT for conference registration refunds, which are handled by the conference organizers. If you have questions about your registration refund, please contact the conference organizers at hbes2020@gmail.com

A Letter from the Editor of Evolution and Human Behavior

Dear HBES members,

I hope this letter finds you all in good health and relatively sane. I am pleased to give the membership an update on EHB. As many of you already know, Elsevier recently migrated the online submission system to Editorial Manager. Together with the production staff and the Editorial Board, I have been working to identify issues and improve usability. I expect it will take a few more cycles to work out all the kinks so I ask for your continued patience.

The Editorial Board continues to work through this challenging time to compile several upcoming issues and I’d like to share them with you. Slated for 2020 are two special issues. The first special issue, organized by Coren Apicella, Ara Norenzayan, and Joe Henrich is on non-WEIRD research and due out in September. The second special issue, organized by Willem Frankenhuis and Dan Nettle, is on Life History Theory and due out in November. This will close out volume 41. For each of the special issues, please be on alert for calls for commentaries. A few selected commentaries will be compiled and appear in a subsequent issue early in 2021. More information will be provided in the introductory article/editorial that will accompany each special issue. There are 2 more special issues in the works and I will provide an update as these take shape.

In issue 6 of 2019, EHB piloted a new format—featured article, commentaries, and author response. The test article for this format was on current debates surrounding menstrual cycle effects and, from the feedback I’ve received, several HBESers felt it was a valuable contribution to the literature. I strongly believe it is important to advance the field’s knowledge across all content domains and one way to do this is to organize effective discussions. There are several topics across anthropology, biology, economics, philosophy, and psychology in need of clarification and (friendly) debate. My intention is that this new format will provoke discussion, generate collaborations, and solidify our scientific foundations. There are 6 issues of EHB per year and I would like to move toward including a featured article with commentaries and response in each. Currently, selection of target articles and commentaries is initiated by the Editor, but I welcome inquiries. Note: Not all articles will lend themselves to this format.

Typically, at the annual HBES meeting, we announce the winner of the Margo Wilson Award, an award made by the Editorial Board for the best paper published in EHB in the preceding year. Selection for the 2020 Margo Wilson Award for the best paper published in EHB in 2019 will be announced in the summer newsletter.

Finally, there are several changes to the Editorial line-up I’d like to share. First, a warm welcome to four new Associate Editors: David Puts, Greg Bryant, Tess Robertson, and Andy Delton. They join Coren Apicella, Rebecca Sear, Josh Tybur, and Willem Frankenhuis to round out the 2020 Editorial Board. Second, Dan Hruschka, after 7 years of service, will be stepping down as Associate Editor. Dan’s contributions to the field have been immeasurable and I am grateful to have had the chance to work closely with him on the journal. Thank you, Dan, for everything you’ve done.

I look forward to receiving your excellent scholarly works via the online submission portal. As always, my mission as EiC of HBES’s journal is to raise the level of discourse, advance knowledge within and across borders, and disseminate to the academy, media, and public our multi-disciplinary research on evolution and human behavior.


Stay well,

Deb Lieberman

Editor in Chief, Evolution & Human Behavior

Peer Teaching in Hunter-Gatherer Societies

Peer Teaching in Hunter-Gatherer Societies

By: Sheina Lew-Levy


One of our species most adaptive traits is our ability to transmit, and improve upon, knowledge from one generation to the next. This reliance on cumulative cultural knowledge has allowed humans to move into diverse, and sometimes challenging environments. For example, we are the only species that can simultaneously thrive in the Kalahari Desert and the Arctic Circle. To do so, we have developed cultural adaptations, such as specialized hunting techniques and clothing.

How children and adolescents learn these cultural technologies is of growing interest to psychologists and anthropologists alike. Teaching, defined here as a behavior performed by one individual in order to facilitate learning in another individual, is one way in which knowledge is transmitted between individuals across and within generations. While we are all familiar with classroom-style teaching, teaching can be much subtler, such as demonstrating, offering feedback, teasing, and assigning tasks.

Cross-cultural studies suggest that parents play a central role in teaching infants (1), but less is known with regards to whom older children receive teaching from. Conversely, while anthropological and psychological studies suggest that older children in diverse settings learn from peers (2), much less is known with regards to peer teaching specifically. In hunter-gatherer societies, where much of children’s time is spent in a multi-aged, mixed-sex playgroup, learning about subsistence is likely to occur through teaching during play and participation in work with other children.

Learning from other children may be particularly adaptive: in the peer group, children can acquire basic competencies. Later on, they can seek teachers from whom they can learn more complex and specialized tasks (3). Also, since teaching can be time consuming, it’s likely that teachers will be individuals who have the most to benefit from the other’s success, such as parents. However, siblings are as related to each other as they are to their parents. Thus, siblings have a lot to gain, from an inclusive fitness standpoint, in teaching their brothers and sisters.

In order to examine whether peer teaching was common in hunter-gatherer societies, we conducted research among Hadza and BaYaka foragers. The Hadza live in the arid-savannah woodlands of Tanzania, and subsist on honey, baobab, berries, tubers, and meat hunted with bows and arrows. Increasingly, the Hadza also rely on maize and other grains provided to them by missionaries, ethno-tour companies, or that are purchased from neighboring pastoralists. The BaYaka live in the dense tropical forest of the Congo Basin. They subsist on hunting with spears, guns, and traps, fishing, gathering tubers, fruit, insects, wild vegetables, honey, and on small horticultural gardens of cassava and maize.

While this suggests that child-to-child teaching is the norm in the hunter-gatherer societies surveyed, we also found considerable cross-cultural variation in the identity of child teachers.

With the help of an interpreter, I followed 35 Hadza and 38 BaYaka children and adolescents ranging in age from 3-18 years for four hours each. During this time, I recorded their activities every minute, as well as any teaching interactions. We then examined patterns for teaching using the Social Relations Model, a type of social network analysis (4). We focused particularly on the teaching of subsistence skills and knowledge. We wanted to understand whether peer teaching occurred in childhood, and adult-child teaching in adolescence, and whether teaching between siblings was common. We also wanted to understand cross-cultural variation in these behaviors.

We found that only 25% of the observed teaching occurred in adult-child dyads, even though children were in proximity of adults 57-69% of the time. While this suggests that child-to-child teaching is the norm in the hunter-gatherer societies surveyed, we also found considerable cross-cultural variation in the identity of child teachers.

First, we found evidence for the multi-stage learning model, where children learn from peers in the playgroup, and from adults in adolescence among the BaYaka. However, we did not find this trend among the Hadza. This finding may be due to the particular socialization practices of each society. Hadza parents and other community members facilitate children’s foraging by making them small, but fully functional, bows, arrows, and digging sticks (5). Children are encouraged to use these tools while foraging, which scale up as children grow. Using these tools, Hadza children are competent foragers by middle childhood, producing up to 50% of their daily caloric needs, depending on the season (6). By providing children with functional tools, adults may limit the need for direct adult teaching, since children can learn through participation. Among the BaYaka, receiving fully-functioning child-sized tools does occur, but is rarer. Further, while children make their own tools, such as slingshots and rat hunting spears, these tools are used by children only (7), and children’s foraging returns from these activities are low (8). As a result, BaYaka children may have less opportunities to practice adult subsistence with child-sized versions of adult tools, and thus, may require more adult tutelage later on in life.

Second, while teaching occurred more frequently between related dyads than unrelated dyads in both societies, sibling teaching was more common among the Hadza than the BaYaka. These differing results may be due to the structure of camps. Among the Hadza, camps tend to be spread out, while among the BaYaka, camps are much smaller. As a result, BaYaka children are in close proximity to, and in closer range for receiving teaching from, all adults living in camp throughout the day. In their larger camps, Hadza children are more likely to be with their nuclear family while at home, resulting in more opportunities to be taught by these closely related individuals, including siblings. As a result of these different settlement structures, the nuclear family may play a greater role in knowledge transmission among the Hadza than the BaYaka.

Taken together, the results of our study suggest that children and adolescents are active teachers from an early age. By facilitating each other’s knowledge acquisition, children may also contribute to a more rapid, and potentially less costly, transfer of knowledge. Furthermore, our study shows that aspects of socialization and settlement structure may mediate which children teach, and when, calling attention to the need to take account of contextual aspects when investigating how children learn across diverse societies.


Read the research article here.


  1. Hewlett BS, Roulette CJ. Teaching in Hunter–Gatherer Infancy. R Soc Open Sci. 2016;3(15):1–14.
  2. Lancy DF. The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2015.
  3. Reyes‐García V, Gallois S, Demps K. A multistage learning model for cultural transmission: Evidence from three Indigenous societies. In: Terashima H, Hewlett BS, editors. Social Learning and Innovation in Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers. Tokyo: Springer Japan; 2016. p. 47–60.
  4. Koster JM, Leckie G. Food sharing networks in lowland Nicaragua: An application of the social relations model to count data. Soc Networks [Internet]. 2014;38(1):100–10. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2014.02.002
  5. Crittenden AN. Children’s foraging and play among the Hadza: The evolutionary significance of “work play.” In: Meehan CL, Crittenden AN, editors. Childhood: Origins, evolution and implications. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press; 2016. p. 155–70.
  6. Crittenden AN, Conklin-Brittain NL, Zes DA, Schoeninger MJ, Marlowe FW. Juvenile Foraging among the Hadza: Implications for Human Life History. Evol Hum Behav. 2013;34(4):299–304.
  7. Gallois S, Duda R, Reyes-Garcia V. Local ecological knowledge among Baka children: A case of “children’s culture”? J Ethnobiol. 2017;37(1):60–80.
  8. Hagino I, Yamauchi T. High Motivation and Low Gain: Food Procurement from Rainforest Foraging by Baka Hunter-Gatherer Children. In: Terashima H, Hewlett BS, editors. Social Learning and Innovation in Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers: Evolutionary and Ethnographic Perspectives. Tokyo: Springer Japan; 2016. p. 135–46.

Children’s Understanding of Dominance and Prestige in China and the UK

Children’s Understanding of Dominance and Prestige in China and the UK

By: Anni Kajanus*, Narges Afshordi*, & Felix Warneken

*joint first authors


Children recognize social rank differences between individuals from early on, for instance associating bigger physical size with dominance. However, dominance—gaining high rank through force or threat of force—is only one mechanism of social rank in human societies. Prestige – merit and respect in the eyes of others – is another important strategy to gain rank. While dominant individuals bully their way to the top, others follow prestigious individuals willingly. In this paper, we set out to test whether children might be able to distinguish dominance and prestige from each other based on a number of cues. We were also interested in how children’s understanding of dominance and prestige develops in different cultural contexts. More specifically, we compared children’s expectations about who would win a desired resource in a conflict between a low-ranking individual and a high-ranking one. This second question was inspired by Kajanus’ ethnographic studies in Nanjing, China, and London, UK. In Chinese culture, yielding to elders and those in positions of authority is valued. As a result, yielding to others can be a signal of lower social rank, as it is in many Western cultural contexts. In addition to this, however, people sometimes also yield to those in lower positions, for example to demonstrate their ability to control emotional impulses, or to skillfully stop conflict situations from escalating. In these situations, yielding is a sign of higher, rather than lower, social rank. Chinese children learn this value from early on, although the complexities of applying it successfully in social situations may take many years to master (Kajanus, forthcoming). In sum, yielding can be a sign of either lower or higher status in China, but generally only of lower status in the UK.

When given the choice between the dominant and prestigious individuals, older children inferred that the subordinate would approach the prestigious character and like them, but fear the dominant character.

With this in mind, we tested children in the UK and China (5-7 years, and 9-12 years, n=40 for each age in each country). Experiment 1 examined the age at which children distinguish dominance and prestige. Children watched simple animations involving three characters that established the central character as subordinate to both a dominant and a prestigious character. In the animations, we used different cues to demonstrate some typical features of dominant and prestigious individuals. For instance, the dominant character imposed her will on the subordinate without ever being asked to intervene, while the prestigious character shared an opinion in a friendly way only after being consulted. We found that both age groups of children in both countries easily recognized the social rank differences between the high-ranking (i.e. dominant or prestigious) characters and the low-ranking one. Further, when given the choice between the dominant and prestigious individuals, older children inferred that the subordinate would approach the prestigious character and like them, but fear the dominant character. Younger children also made similar inferences, but were less successful than their older counterparts. In addition to finding that children differentiate dominance and prestige, this experiment provided empirical confirmation that our animations depicted dominance and prestige in ways that were interpretable to children in both places. This gave us the opportunity to use the same animations in order to ask if children in China and the UK have similar or different expectations about who would win a conflict. Before testing children, however, we first wanted to know whether there were differences in adults’ expectations. We tested 40 adults from each country online. We established the roles of subordinate, dominant, and prestigious using the same cartoons as before. We then presented two cases of conflict over resources (subordinate vs. dominant, and subordinate vs. prestigious), and asked who would win. Even though adults in both countries predicted that the dominant and prestigious individuals would overcome the subordinate, Chinese adults were less likely than British adults to do so in the prestige case. That is, Chinese adults were less likely than British ones to think that the prestigious person would win the resource. Thus, we found some evidence of differences between the two populations in their views on conflicts between people of differing social rank.

Finally, we explored how cultural models of hierarchy and conflict influence children’s inferences about the outcome of conflicts between high- and low-ranking parties. Testing new samples of children (n=40 in each age in each country) in this task, we found that younger children in both countries failed to make systematic inferences about who would win. While six-year-old children were able to infer dominance and prestige from their associated cues, they apparently did not insert social rank into their reasoning about other inferences such as who would win a conflict. Older children in the two countries, however, responded differently from each other. Those in the UK, like adults, thought that high-status characters would win. In contrast, older children in China made no consistent prediction in favor of the high-status parties. Chinese children’s responses and importantly their justifications indicate that they are still grappling with the complex norms about who should yield and when. Overall, these experiments provide strong evidence for a culturally-influenced aspect of hierarchical relationship understanding across two populations, as well as pointing to potentially universal aspects of rank-reasoning.


Read the research article here.

EHB, Elsevier Survey Results

Dear HBES Members:

The results from the survey you all filled out about Evolution and Human Behavior and Elsevier were very clear, and very helpful. We received around 280 responses to each survey question.

The main question of the survey was: Given that the transition would eliminate $130K/year inflow into the Society’s reserves, how important is it to you that the official journal of HBES be an open-access journal…. (first chart) eventually, within ~5 years …. (middle chart) soon, within ~2 years ….(last chart) ASAP. The scale was: -5 = strongly against to +5 = strongly in favor.




Most people did not want to cut ties with Elsevier ASAP to go open-access (panel c); many people were in favor of having our own open-access journal in about five years (panel a), and the field was split on the question of exiting to go open-access in about two years (panel b).

Given these results, we negotiated a 3 year contract with Elsevier, on good terms, which can be reconsidered in 2022. Many thanks for the guidance, helpful comments, and feedback! We will continue to involve you in these decisions moving forward.



HBES Executive Council and Publication Committee




Boston skyline

HBES 2019 Boston: Post-Conference Survey Results

Dear HBES Members:

Thank you to everyone who filled out the post-conference survey for HBES 2019 in Boston.  The results – including the many insightful comments and suggestions – were very helpful, and the council will be using them to improve our annual conference moving forward. Below, we have included some highlights from the survey spanning the range of topics you provided feedback on.

Some context about the survey: The HBES post-conference survey was first sent out to the membership list on June 26, 2019, with a reminder email sent out on July 8, 2019. The survey was closed on July 24, 2019. The survey received 198 engagements. The Boston conference had registered 489 attendees and our 2019 society membership prior to the Boston conference had 591 members. Thus, the survey gathered about one third of the HBES membership.

Questions about the survey can be directed to Nicole Barbaro (Communications Officer) and Leda Cosmides (President).


The Executive Council of HBES


What does the HBES 2019 membership look like?

Our polled membership is approximately 39% female, 59% male, 2% another gender identity. Additionally, 70% report working/residing in the United States, and 30% report working/residing outside the United States.


In what departments do our members work?


For what reasons are you a member of HBES?


How satisfied are members with our Code of Conduct?


Sexual Harassment at HBES 2019

85% of respondents thought sexual harassment was not a problem, or less of a problem at HBES than at other conferences; 96% thought it was less than or equal to that at other conferences. Five individuals reported that they had experienced sexual harassment at HBES 2019 via the post-conference survey. The Grievance Committee also received reports of sexual harassment via the online report submission form on the HBES website; these involved the behavior of one individual. The Grievance Committee and the Executive Council promptly responded to these reports according to the procedures outlined in the Code of Conduct. The complainants have been notified of the proceedings.



Overall, most members find the quality of the HBES conference above average or excellent relative to other conferences they attend


Overall, most members find that HBES provides good opportunities for networking relative to other conferences they attend.


To what extent do members agree that HBES events provide environments where people are free to express their ideas, opinions, or beliefs.



To what extent do members agree that at HBES events, people have an opportunity to excel regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Interview with 2019 HBES Lifetime Career Award Winner Bobbi Low by Jaimie A. Krems

Bobbi Low is Professor Emerita in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, where she’s also affiliated with the Institute for Social Research and the Center for Study of Complex Systems. She is also a co-founding member of HBES and winner of the 2019 Lifetime Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution, which she received at our annual HBES conference in Boston. Bobbi Low is also a pioneer, a path-breaker, and a research powerhouse—but you knew that. So we decided to ask Bobbi a bunch of questions to find out some information we didn’t know before, and also to take advantage of her perspective on evolutionary social science over her eminent career.

In Fall 2019, Jaimie Arona Krems, an assistant professor at the Oklahoma Center for Evolutionary Analysis (OCEAN) at Oklahoma State University and fellow member of the HBES Grievance Committee, chatted with Bobbi Low. Below is some of their conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.


Jaimie: What’s your origin story? (By origin story, I mean, if you were a comic book hero, how did you come into being?)

Bobbi: I was a nerdy/dorky kid (of course envying the popular crowd!), but the one thing I knew how to do was go to school. I absolutely loved reading—still do. I would read anything. I was 12 or 14 when I read both Coming of Age in Samoa and Polly Adler’s (a famous New York madame) memoir A House is Not a Home. (Yeah, I was too young to understand…I thought having parties all the time would be great.)


J: How did you survive the leaky pipeline (i.e., the pipeline in STEM education that famously drips women and retains men)?

B: I have one trait that’s not helpful in most cases: I am pretty oblivious…but entering academe, it actually helped. After the first year, I realized that nothing ever was decided in faculty meetings—so I avoided them as much as I could, even scheduling seminar class in the faculty meeting time slot. As you’d guess, it really slowed down my progress ‘up the ladder’ but I really didn’t notice much. I should tell you that I have always been a misfit in my school: they hired me because at that time there was pressure to hire women, and I had wildlife experience (I was hired to teach ‘wildlife biology’ though I soon turned it into behavioral ecology of terrestrial vertebrates).


J: What advice might you have for people just starting to pursue their interests in evolutionary social science?

B: Find a knowledgeable and supportive mentor


J: Currently lots of posts/tweets about leaving academia for better-paying jobs. Can you mention some good reasons to stay in the academy?

B: Ouch! That’s a good one. If you are truly passionate about doing good research, and if you love teaching, you belong in the academy. I probably couldn’t have survived anywhere else—even now I am still going to school. But demographics rule: we are an aging population, with fewer students coming into university ages, so even now, many departments are shrinking and streamlining. It’s a buyer’s market out there. And I know a number of anthropologists who work for corporations, medical schools, and more. Anywhere multiculturalism is not a long-standing condition, there will be a need for social scientists.


J: In academia, rejection is the mode. How do you deal with the rejection letter?

B: I put it in the drawer, maybe shed a few tears in private, and check it in about a week. It’s important to check it as soon at that. When I was starting, I was so depressed by a letter from American Naturalist that I couldn’t look at it. When it surfaced two years later, I saw that it was a simple ‘revise and resubmit’ letter, though of course by then it was far too late!


J: If I’m correct, you were the first full-time female faculty member…how has HBES and evolutionary social science changed since your start? Is anything clearly better or worse?

B: I think it’s clear that the fields and the society have developed amazingly over the years. Impact has grown, too: a glance at my google feed always turns up some ‘hybrid’ popularizing article in evolutionary anthropology (cookies, I know…but the stories are out there!)


J: Does HBES differ from other societies to which you belong, and if so, how?

B: I am not sure it does…. just because we understand human frailties in a particular way, doesn’t mean we can circumvent them. Next meeting, think about non-human behavioral ecology—think about the people you see as critters—and you’ll find bucks sparring, and more.


J: Would you tell us one boring fact about yourself and/or one thing that most people at HBES would be unlikely to know about you?

B: Actually most facts about me are boring. Most people don’t know things like: I bet I have caught more snakes than anyone else you know. I was pretty much a cowboy-field biologist in grad school: lots of time in the field—especially deserts, carried a knife on lower leg, pickled specimens by moonlight, teased vultures by staggering and falling down until they came in to investigate, walked out on bridge girders over the Pecos River…stuff like that. It was enormous fun.


J: Out of curiosity, what animal would you be?

B: A lizard, I think. I am utterly heliotropic (how I ever came to live in Michigan I’ll never understand fully).