HBES #Pathogens & Social Behavior Roundtable Seminar Series Event on March 4th

HBES is thrilled to announce the next event in our new Roundtable Seminar Series. On March 4th 2021 at 12:30pm -1:45pm EST Drs. Joshua Tybur, Lisa DeBruine, Randy Thornhill, and Daniel Hruschka will engage in discussion, moderated by Dr. Deb Lieberman on the topic, “Pathogens and Social Behavior”. We’re looking forward to engaging with our members on important discussions happening in this area.


As prior events, the live-stream of the event will be hosted on crowdcast and the password to register for the event will be emailed out to HBES members the week of the event (check your spam folder!). The recording of this event, and all prior events, will be made available on our YouTube channel shortly following the event.


If you have any questions about registering for this event, please contact the event coordinators at hbesroundtableseries@gmail.com.


We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!

HBES 2021 In-Person Palm Springs Conference Cancelled

Dear HBES community,

The 2021 HBES conference that is scheduled for Palm Springs will not be held in person given the California pandemic restrictions on hotels and meetings that will continue into the indefinite future. (Even if these are eased by May, the social distancing regulations that would remain in place mean that very few people would be able to attend in person.) The executive council is exploring alternative options to have an HBES meeting online. We will provide updates to the membership via email, social media, and our website as they become available.

For those who have already submitted an abstract for consideration of presentation in Palm Springs: Please consider the abstract officially ‘withdrawn’ from consideration. In the event of a virtual meeting, we will have a new, separate submission form. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

It is unfortunate that we are unable to gather as a society in-person for the second year in a row, but we are hopeful that we can create virtual engagement opportunities for our members. We hope to set up a virtual meeting this summer, but in the meantime we invite you to attend our new virtual Roundtable Seminar Series events that are held regularly throughout the year. We will be hosting an event in February and will send out details in the coming weeks. You can continue to engage with our society and members on social media as well.

We hope you are all staying safe and healthy in the new year!

The HBES Executive Council and 2021 Conference Organizers

2020 HBES Early Career Award Winner

From the HBES Early Career Award Committee (Pascal Boyer, Owen Jones, and Deb Lieberman)


The competition for the 2020 HBES Early Career Award was especially fierce this year with several outstanding candidates. This year’s winner, to be celebrated at the 2021 HBES conference in Palm Springs, is Dr. Katherine McAuliffe, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College. Dr. McAuliffe’s research examines the evolutionary origins and development of human sociality, in particular inequity aversion, fairness, and third-party punishment. Her research has been published in numerous leading journals including Nature, Science, PNAS, Animal Behaviour, Cognition, Developmental Psychology, and the Quarterly Review of Biology.

As her letter writers note, Katherine is “at the forefront of bringing evolutionary biology to understanding human cognitive development and developmental psychology.” She has done so by investigating behavior in a number of species including meerkats, capuchins, dogs, and dingoes. In humans, her data collection spans several countries including Ecuador, Uganda, China, India, and Peru. The committee echoes her nominators in that Katie’s “interdisciplinary approach, entrepreneurial spirit and scientific rigor make her an outstanding role model and inspiration to [her] graduate students, post-docs, new professors and budding…scientists, more generally.” ‘


2020 HBES Lifetime Career Award Winner

From the lifetime career award committee (Elizabeth Cashdan, Randy Thornhill, and John Tooby)


Congratulations to Prof. David Perrett, winner of the 2020 HBES Lifetime Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution. Prof. Perrett was lauded by colleagues and former students for his pioneering research on human face perception, which he has studied from both a neuropsychological and evolutionary perspective. He is best known for his research on the relationship between facial attractiveness and health and psychological traits, which he has studied using innovative computer-graphic techniques.

Perrett’s work has been highly influential both within academia (an h-index of 93 in Web of Science and many awards) and with the public, the latter through a popular book (In Your Face: The New Science of Human Attraction) and wide coverage by major media outlets. Perrett’s influence has also been broadly felt within the HBES community through the many graduate students and postdocs he has trained, many of whom have gone on to leading academic careers of their own.

Our committee received nominations for five extraordinary scholars, whose groundbreaking research speaks well for the stature and future of HBES. We wish to thank the people who took the time to submit nominations and write letters on their behalf, and to let them know that all nominations for this award will now be automatically reconsidered for a period of three years.

You can learn more about Dr. Perrett and his work by reading here.


Five Must-Read Popular Evolution Books of 2020

By Nicole Barbaro


Every year is filled with many wonderful books, often more than we can manage to read. But each year there are stand-out books that focus on key topics of interest to those fascinated with the application of evolutionary theory to understanding human – and animal – behavior. In 2020, HBES re-vamped their regular newsletter to share and promote evolutionary research in the social sciences. Part of this initiative includes promoting popular books authored by evolutionary scientists and evolutionary science writers. It became even more important this year given that normal routes of promotion were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

It’s with great gratitude to these authors that we share and promote excellence in evolutionary writing. Below are five must-read evolution books of 2020, picked by HBES Communications Officer, Nicole Barbaro.



The Kindness of Strangers: How a Selfish Ape Invented A New Moral Code

By Michael E. McCullough

In The Kindness of Strangers, Michael McCullough manages to write about the evolutionary science of cooperation in a remarkably refreshing way that even the most senior of evolutionary scientists will surely enjoy. After the state of the science is laid out, McCullough transitions to showcasing the ways in which humanity has accelerated kindness in the modern era to the generous culture we inhabit today. With cooperation being such a hot topic this year, The Kindness of Strangers truly excelled and is the one to read.


The Cheating Cell: How Evolution Helps Us Understand and Treat Cancer

By Athena Aktipis

In an epic crossover between evolutionary psychology and cancer biology, Athena Aktipis elucidates a fresh new view of cancer evolution within the body. With her engaging nature on complex science topics, Aktipis has truly written a classic on cancer evolution. A true interdisciplinary book, The Cheating Cell provides new approaches to an endemic disease that can only be illuminated by blurring the boundaries of disciplines.


The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

By Joseph Henrich

2020 has been an incredibly weird year overall, but it has been particularly WEIRD for HBES. A decade ago Joseph Henrich and colleagues brought attention to WEIRDness in psychology, and in 2020 HBES has revisited WEIRD problems in a special issue of Evolution and Human Behavior published in September, followed by a Roundtable Seminar event on the topic. In his book length theory, The WEIRDest People in the World, Henrich details what WEIRD is, why it matters, and how it came to be, highlighting how truly WEIRD the west is. This tour-de-force of a book is a must read for psychologists in any discipline.


The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause

By Susan P. Mattern

Okay, so technically this one came out in late 2019 but rules have gone out the window this year and I feel that this book deserves more recognition. The Slow Moon Climbs is a beautiful and expertly written review of the science of menopause, detailing all the competing evolutionary theories of why women experience menopause. Using comparative and anthropological evidence, Mattern also covers the social and cultural history of menopause and how the west might be a bit – shall I say – weird about how menopause is viewed socially as compared to traditional societies.


The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

By Jennifer Ackerman

Birds are a quintessential example of the power of evolution to shape extraordinary features, whimsical design, and astonishing colors. In The Bird Way, Jennifer Ackerman devotes full sections to each of the remarkable aspects of bird life – communication, work, play, parenting, and cognition. With vivid and diverse examples, The Bird Way will remind you why birds continue to capture our imagination and scientific interest.



Happy reading! I’m looking forward to the reading joys that 2021 will bring.




If you’re an author who has an evolutionary-focused book being published in 2021, please contact our Communications Officer Nicole Barbaro for consideration of book promotion via our newsletters and social media. We cannot guarantee that we will promote your book, but we guarantee that we will consider it.

Unpredictability 2.0

By Ethan Young


I saw those Djakarta markets for what they were: fragile, precious things. The people who sold their goods there might have been poor, poorer even that the folks in Altgeld. They hauled 50 pounds of firewood on their back every day, they ate little, they died young. And yet for all that poverty, there remained in their lives a discernable order, a tapestry of trading routes and middle men, bribes to pay, and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day. It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like Altgeld so desperate, I thought to myself; it was the loss of order.

-Barack Obama (1995), Dreams from my Father


Barack Obama spent part of his childhood living in Jakarta, Indonesia, and his emerging adulthood working as a community organizer in Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project on Chicago’s South Side. In his memoir, Obama described both Jakarta and Altgeld as tough environments in which people died young. Indeed, Jakarta and Altgeld seemed similar on a fundamental dimension of environmental risk—harshness—which Ellis and colleagues (2009) defined as age-specific rates of morbidity-mortality. At the same time, Jakarta and Altgeld appeared very different on a second key dimension of environmental risk: unpredictability. The challenges and struggles of life in Jakarta were tough but similar from day-to-day. In Altgeld, life was chaotic, haphazard, and disordered.

For decades, scholars have examined the link between environmental conditions, evolution, and the development of life-history strategies. In particular, the literature on environmental unpredictability has grown substantially in the past 10 years. However, this body of work faces two major theoretical ambiguities. The first is the definition of environmental unpredictability as a selection pressure across evolutionary time. Specifically, unpredictability is often defined as the level of spatial-temporal variation in environmental harshness. However, this definition does not specify the pattern of variation in statistical terms. Different patterns of variation might produce different selection pressures, resulting in different adaptations.

A second ambiguity concerns the proximate mechanisms—adaptations—that evolved to detect and respond to environmental unpredictability. There are at least two frameworks. The first is the ancestral cue perspective, which proposes that humans evolved to detect and respond to cues that reliably indicated high environmental unpredictability across evolutionary history. The second is the statistical learning perspective, which suggests that organisms estimate the level of unpredictability by integrating differences in lived experiences across development. Drawing on one or the other approach has consequences for hypotheses and measurement.

Our paper refines the definition of unpredictability in two ways. First, we identify the patterns of variation that make environments more or less predictable. Second, we address stationarity, which refers to whether or not the statistical structure of an environment itself changes over a lifetime.

Stationary environments have three main statistical properties: variance, autocorrelation, and cue reliability. Variance refers to average deviations from the mean. For example, high temporal variance in harshness means that the environment can vary widely from safe to dangerous (around a mean value) across time. However, whether or not high variance is unpredictable depends on whether the level of harshness is also autocorrelated. Autocorrelation refers to the degree to which current conditions are related to future conditions. Variation can be predictable if it is autocorrelated, even when variance is high. Cue reliability refers to the extent to which observations provide information (reduce uncertainty) about current or future environmental conditions. Cues may provide information about current or future states of the environment, even if these states are not autocorrelated.


First, we identify the patterns of variation that make environments more or less predictable. Second, we address stationarity, which refers to whether or not the statistical structure of an environment itself changes over a lifetime.


In non-stationary environments, the statistical structure of the environment changes over time. However, some non-stationary patterns are more predictable than others. For example, predictable non- stationary environments could have a trend (e.g., slope), seasonal variation, and/or cyclic variation. However, unpredictable non-stationary environments might contain random change points, i.e., abrupt changes in statistical properties of the environment. For example, there might be a sudden increase in mean levels of harshness (e.g., a natural disaster) or an increase in the variance of resource distribution (e.g., the stock market crashing).

Having refined definitions of unpredictability, an open question is which proximate mechanisms organisms use to detect environmental unpredictability. We discuss two possibilities. The first is the ancestral cue approach to unpredictability, which is anchored in the general ‘ancestral cue’ perspective in evolutionary psychology. This perspective assumes that ancestral environments included cues that were associated with fitness-relevant changes in environmental conditions. As a consequence, natural selection has favored brains to treat these cues as privileged sources of information.

The second perspective is the statistical learning approach. This approach states that natural selection has shaped proximate mechanisms to track the statistical structure of the environment by integrating differences in lived experiences across development, without privileging particular sources of information per se. Organism use their experiences as raw data to build models of the statistical structure of the environment (not necessarily consciously). They then use these models to ‘estimate’ (i.e., adapt to) such properties as the overall mean level, variance, and autocorrelation in harshness.

The approaches target the same process—estimating environmental unpredictability—but differ in the types of information that trigger a response. Ancestral cues carry information about ancestral environments. If particular cues, for example geographic relocations, were reliably associated with environmental unpredictability, then natural selection may have equipped the mind to detect and respond directly to the cue. In contrast, a statistical learning proximate mechanism responds directly to the statistical patterns of change in its environment. Specifically, the organism responds to environmental unpredictability when it detects a prediction error. For example, if the level of danger does not change after a relocation, the statistical learning mechanism will not make a prediction error, and therefore it will not trigger a response to unpredictability.

Of course, ancestral cue detection and statistical learning are not mutually exclusive. In fact, organisms could leverage both sources of information. For instance, organisms could use lived experience as ‘raw data’ where each experience is weighted equally. If exposed to an ancestral cue, they could add them to their predictive models, using weights to account for the ancestral knowledge contained in ancestral cues. Or, ancestral cues could indicate when the individual should recalibrate their model of the environment. For example, an organism could use lived experience and, upon detection of an ancestral cue, such as a geographic relocation, it may be adaptive to re-estimate these statistics because a move could mean that past conditions are no longer informative for predicting future conditions. Thus, the organism might throw out “old data” in favor of using “new data” after a transition occurs.

However, these mechanisms interact, empirical studies drawing on the ancestral cue perspective need to select and measure the cues that are hypothesized to have indicated environmental unpredictability in our evolutionary past. In contrast, studies drawing on the statistical learning perspective need to measure lived experiences across time and compile enough observations to model patterns of variation (e.g., variance, autocorrelation, change points etc.). To do so, researchers could use time series data and analytical techniques for characterizing patterns of change over time.

Future research should collect measures derived from both approaches and integrate insights. Doing so will refine our understanding of environmental unpredictability and its connection to life history development.



Read the paper: Theory and measurement of environmental unpredictability

A Letter from the Editor, Deb Lieberman

There are a few updates I’d like to share with the HBES membership. We are awaiting publication of the final issue of 2020, the Special Issue on Life History Theory, edited by Willem Frankenhuis and Daniel Nettle. This was a tremendous effort and I’d like to thank both Willem and Dan, the contributors, and all the reviewers who have helped create a fantastic special issue. There are some new EHB projects in the planning stages and I will provide updates in forthcoming newsletters.

As some have already noticed, EHB is moving toward a policy in which authors are required to provide their (anonymized) data and materials via links to online repositories or as supplemental online materials. The purpose of this is to aid the review process and to ensure the replicability of empirical design. To this end, we have updated the Guide to Authors and submission portal to reflect these changes. Specifically, during the submission process, authors will be asked to answer new questions relating to whether/how they have made their data and materials available.

In an ongoing effort, we are working to streamline the submission process. Rather than submitting figures and tables as separate files during the review phase, authors are now asked to provide a single pdf file of their manuscript, preferably with tables and figures placed in the text where they are mentioned. During the production phase, authors will be asked to upload their figures and tables separately. Thank you for your patience as we complete some of these updates. As always, if you have suggestions for improvement, I am all ears.

Last, but certainly not least, it is with heavy heart that we say farewell to three members of the editorial team: Willem Frankenhuis, Rebecca Sear, and Josh Tybur. All three have substantially improved the quality of the journal and the editorial process over the past almost decade (gulp!). I am incredibly lucky to have worked with them and wish them much success with the projects/sleep/papers/grants/home-schooling that they can now focus on with their new-found time. In all seriousness, they leave large shoes to fill and will be sorely missed. Please join me in thanking them for their many years of service to our field.


Deb Lieberman

Editor-in-Chief, Evolution and Human Behavior

HBES #PartisanOrigins Roundtable Seminar Series Event on December 17th

HBES is thrilled to announce the third event in our new Roundtable Seminar Series. On December 17th 2020 at 2pm -3:15pm EST Drs. Michael Bang Petersen, Hugo Mercier, Rose McDermott, John Jost will engage in discussion, moderated by Dr. Andrew Delton on the topic, “The origins of political orientation and partisanship.”


After a successful first event on the topic of WEIRD research in the evolutionary social sciences, and subsequent event on current debates in life history theory as applied to human variation, we’re looking forward to engaging with our members on important discussions happening in the area of political orientation and partisanship.


As prior, the live-stream of the event will be hosted on crowdcast and the password to register for the event will be emailed out to HBES members the week of the event (check your spam folder!). The recording of this event, and all prior events, will be made available on our YouTube channel shortly following the event.


If you have any questions about registering for this event, please contact the event coordinators at hbesroundtableseries@gmail.com.


We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!


Understanding the Complexity of #LifeHistoryTheory in HBES’s Roundtable Seminar Series Event

By Nicole Barbaro


HBES hosted the second event in the new Roundtable Seminar Series on November 17 with over 215 members in live attendance. The new event series, organized by HBES volunteers Kristopher Smith, Courtney Crosby, and Paul Deutchman, featured a panel of researchers who specialize in different areas of life history theory to discuss what “life history theory” means, the area’s current theoretical and empirical issues, and where research should go next. The event topic corresponds with the November special issue of HBES’s journal, Evolution and Human Behavior, on Current Debates in Human Life History Research.



Panelists Dr. Marco Del Giudice, Dr. Rebecca Sear, Dr. Keelah Williams, Dr. Daniel Nettle, and Dr. Willem Frankenhuis discussed differences between ‘clusters’ of life history research in biology and psychology, difficulties of applying original conceptualizations of life history theory to human behavior, issues in measurement and trait covariation, and the importance of measuring adaptive outcomes. Many of these issues were sparked by panelists contributions to the EHB special issue.


[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOOVNK8WpaA&t=1s [/embedyt]


The Roundtable Seminar Series will be held regularly throughout the year, approximately every 1 – 2 months. HBES members receive the exclusive perk of being able to watch the event live, engage in chat with other attendees, and ask the panelists questions. Following each event, the recording of the event will be available for anyone to view on the HBES Roundtable Series YouTube channel.

The next event in the Roundtable Series will be held on Thursday, December 17 at 2 pm -3:15 pm EST, with the topic of discussion centered on Origins of Political Orientation and Partisanship. The conversation will include panelists Dr. Michael Bang Petersen, Dr. Hugo Mercier, Dr. Rose McDermott, and Dr. John Jost, moderated by Dr. Andrew Delton.

Thank you to all who continue to make this event a great success, and we look forward to seeing you all on December 17!

HBES #LifeHistoryTheory Roundtable Seminar Series Event on November 17th

HBES is thrilled to announce the second event in our new Roundtable Seminar Series. On November 17th 2020 at 12pm -1:15pm EST Drs. Marco Del Giudice, Keelah Williams, Daniel Nettle, and Rebecca Sear will engage in discussion, moderated by Dr. Willem Frankenhuis on the topic, “Life history theory as applied to inter-individual variation.” The topic corresponds with the upcoming special issue of Evolution and Human Behavior, which is also focused on Life History Theory as applied in the evolutionary sciences.


After a successful first event on the topic of WEIRD research in the evolutionary social sciences, we’re looking forward to engaging with our members on important discussions happening in the area of life history research as it applies to inter-individual variation.


As prior, the livestream of the event will be hosted on crowdcast and the password to register for the event will be emailed out to HBES members the week of the event. The recording of this event, and all prior events, will be made available on our YouTube channel shortly following the event.


If you have any questions about registering for this event, please contact the event coordinators at hbesroundtableseries@gmail.com.


We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!