HBES 2023 in Palm Springs

HBES 2023 Palm Springs was a success! Catherine Salmon & Jessica Hehman hosted a fantastic conference that brought us together in-person for the first time since 2019 (Boston).

In addition to 3.5 days of talks, there were five excellent plenaries and a keynote:

Michelle Scalise Sugiyama started us out with an enlightening discussion of how storytelling can function as an information technology. Oral storytelling is very different from transmission chain experiments because it has multiple features to increase the fidelity of information transmission. As such, storytelling may be a key tool in one of humanity’s most impressive achievements: our cumulative culture (i.e., culture that builds upon previous culture).

Steven Neuberg outlined his “affordance management” perspective on stereotypes, whereby stereotypes are designed to help people identify and manage threats and opportunities in their environments (“affordances”). He presented multiple examples of how stereotypes track the types of threats and opportunities that are relevant to people, and how categories of stereotypes interact in important ways (e.g., age-sex stereotypes & other “intersectional” stereotypes).

Paul Vasey gave very interesting examples in macaques and humans of inter-sexual mate competition – when a male and a female compete for the same partner. For example, female Japanese macaques sometimes form same-sex sexual consortships that males try to poach. In Samoa and Oaxaca, the fa’afafine and Muxe (respectively) are biological men who are recognized as a third gender, and who will sometimes try to poach women’s male partners. Inter-sexual competition likely depends on the frequency of bisexual individuals in a population, which varies by species, culture, and time period.

Michael Rose suggested that due to low selection pressure in late life, aging essentially slows and stops after a certain age (i.e., the yearly mortality rate stops increasing after a certain age). “Late life is an evolutionary freezer… [with] relics of long past adaptations.” Based on his fruit fly data, he suggests that younger individuals are better off on diets that they’re more recently adapted to, but ancestral diets may be better later in life.

Gerry Carter delivered a tour de force on bat social life. There are monogamous bats with biparental care, bats in stable cooperative groups of non-kin, bats who protect ingroup pups from outgroup attacks, bats with fission-fusion societies, and more. Vampire bats regurgitate food for others who didn’t find a meal, with many interesting components: they show preference on who to accept from, graduate from huddling to grooming to food-sharing (“raise the stakes”), and hedge their bets by diversifying their social networks. At the end, he suggests that instead of thinking categorically about “is this kinship or is this reciprocity”, we should ask “what proportion of this helping is this cause & what proportion is a different cause”, especially seeing as many of these causes interact.

Bobbi Low‘s keynote presented some of the tradeoffs that women experience in their life-history decisions. How does delaying reproduction impact women’s total fertility? How have these tradeoffs changed over time? What will these tradeoffs look like in the future?

Congratulations to the New Investigator winner: Dithapelo Medupe (“Why did foraging, horticulture and pastoralism persist after the Neolithic demographic transition? The Oasis Theory of agricultural intensification”)! And also to the other two finalists who also gave great talks: Minhua Yan (“Doing what others do cannot stabilize cooperative norms”), Lei Fan (“Are people more averse to microbe-sharing with ethnic outgroup members”), and especially the winner.

Congratulations to the Postdoctoral Competition winner: Miriam Lindner (“The sense in senseless violence: male reproductive strategy and the modern sexual marketplace as contributors to violent extremism”)! Also congrats to the two other finalists who were also fantastic: Andrew Bishop (“Prey harvest composition and costly signaling among the Ache of Paraguay”) and Patrick Durkee (“Status-impact assessment: is accuracy linked with status motivations?”).

Overall, there were many great talks, and it was great to be back in person.

Thanks to the hosts (Catherine Salmon & Jessica Hehman), the Program Committee, the volunteers, the sponsors, and everyone else who made it such a great conference!