**** In order to maximise participation from promising new researchers in the field, the award is now given through a process of self-nomination****
Every year a New Investigator award is given to a promising new researcher from the field of evolution and human behaviour. The prize is an expenses-paid plenary slot at the annual EHBEA conference.
To be eligible a candidate should (i) be an EHBEA member at the time of nomination, (ii) have a degree and PhD in a relevant topic, (iii) have less than five years’ postdoctoral experience, and (iv) have shown great potential to make a significant contribution to research in the field of evolution and human behaviour.
Nomination procedure: Candidates self-nominate. They must provide the following:
- A self-nomination form, that includes a 250-word abstract of the presentation the candidate would give at the EHBEA conference, were they to be selected as the EHBEA New Investigator.
- A two-page CV.
- PDFs of two published research articles
The candidate should send the four documents to the EHBEA Secretary by the deadline. The current deadline is 5pm CEST on November 19. The nomination form can be downloaded here, and should be emailed to the EHBEA Secretary Paula Sheppard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 AWARD WINNER: Samuel Mehr from Harvard University
In 1871, Darwin wrote, “As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man … they must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed.” Infants and parents worldwide engage their mysterious musical faculties eagerly and frequently, unlike any other species, and have done so throughout recorded history. Why should this be? In this talk I propose that infant-directed song functions as an honest signal of parental investment. Three lines of work support this proposal. First, I show that the genomic imprinting disorders Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes, which cause an altered psychology of parental investment, are associated with an altered psychology of music. Second, I analyze ethnographic texts and audio recordings with tools of data science, finding that vocal music appears in 100% of a representative sample of human societies and is reliably associated with the care of infants and children therein. Moreover, infant-directed songs are recognizable by massive cohorts of naïve listeners, a result driven by acoustic features of the singing that consistently differentiate the infant-directed songs from other songs, worldwide. Last, I show that infants are sensitive to these reliably-occurring acoustic features: despite their unfamiliarity, infants are calmed by foreign lullabies. These findings converge on a psychological function of music in infancy that may underlie more general features of the human music faculty, laying the foundation for a comprehensive psychology of music.
2019 AWARD WINNER: Luke Glowacki from the Pennsylvania State University
Plenary Title: The biocultural bases of intergroup aggression and affiliation
Humans are unusual in the flexibility of our responses to out-group members, ranging from coalitionary violence and warfare, to reliance on out-groups for trade or marriage partners. But why either affiliative or aggressive intergroup relationships develop remains a source of dispute. Using cross-cultural data, I argue that the pattern of intergroup relationships can result from interacting cultural and social dynamics including (1) systems of reward and punishment, (2) informal leadership, and (3) expectation of asymmetric gain. Cultural incentive systems for warfare are associated with greater mortality risk from conflict (Glowacki and Wrangham, 2013), while the threat of peer sanctioning functions as an important catalyst for both warfare and peace (Glowacki and Eulenberger, submitted). Within-group social structure has a crucial role in the emergence of intergroup violence. Using social network data on 30+ raiding parties in an East African society, I show that raids are led by individuals who occupy important positions in the network (Glowacki et al. 2016). Their favourable network position allows them to recruit from the entire social network, while conflict participation can then fuel prosocial attitudes towards the group (Böhm et al. in prep). Cultural norms promoting inequitable distribution of resources may be an important incentive for these key individuals. Using contest
games, I show that individuals initiate conflict in expectation of an asymmetric return of the benefits, even when doing is suboptimal for their own payoffs and their group’s payoffs (Dogan, Glowacki, Rusch 2018). Together these lines of evidence underscore a key role for the interaction of social structure and cultural norms for the occurrence of intergroup violence or intergroup tolerance.
2018 AWARD WINNER: Eleanor Power from the London School of Economics and Political Science
We are happy to announce the 2018 EHBEA New Investigator’s Award: Eleanor Power. Eleanor is an anthropologist and behavioural ecologist who studies how religious belief, practice, and identity interact with and shape interpersonal relationships.
Eleanor’s LSE staff profile page:
Follow Eleanor on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eleanorapower
2017 AWARD WINNER: Urszula Marcinkowska from the Jagiellonian University Medical College
Urszula studied in Poland, Finland, UK and Italy, and is currently works as a post-doctoral researcher with a grant from the Polish National Science Centre. She works with evolutionary basis of human sexual selection. She has been researching sexual preferences towards different faces, and factors that shape these preferences. She worked on sexual imprinting in humans (both positive and negative) – do we like or dislike faces that resemble our parents or siblings. Currently she is focusing more on how hormones influence our preferences, sexual openness and overall well-being.
She is also interested in cross-cultural studies comparisons in the theme of sexual selection.
- Marcinkowska UM, Terraube J, Kaminski G. 2016. How did my little sister influence my facial preferences? Scientific Reports 6: 33545 doi:10.1038/srep33545
- Marcinkowska UM, Ellison PT, Galbarczyk A, Milkowska K, Pawlowski B, Thune I, Jasienska G. 2016. Lack of support for relation between woman’s masculinity preference, estradiol level and mating context. Hormones and Behavior 78: 1-7
- Marcinkowska UM, Helle S, Lyons MT. 2016. Women’s reproductive success and the preference for Dark Triad in men’s faces. Evolution and Human Behavior 37: 287–292
- Marcinkowska UM, Dixson B, Kozlov MV, Rantala MJ. 2015. Men’s Preferences for Female Facial Femininity Decline With Age. Journal of Gerontology doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv077
- Marcinkowska UM, Kozlov MV, Contreras-Garduno J, Dixson BJ, Oana GA, Kaminski G, Li NP, Lyons MT, Onyishi IE, Prasai K, Prokop P,Rosales Cardozo S, Sydney N, Yong JC, Rantala MJ. 2014. Crosscultural variation in men’s preference for sexual dimorphism in women faces. Biology Letters 10: 20130850
- Rantala MJ & Marcinkowska UM. 2011. The role of positive and negative sexual imprinting on mate choice in humans. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65: 859-873
2016 AWARD WINNER: Olivier Morin
Plenary Title: Culture is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans
On the face of it, the stunning continuity and abundance of traditions in our species suggests that humans possess an evolved drive to imitate others—an adaptation enabling each of us to acquire our culture. Yet, human traditions could also have arisen as a by-product of communicative capacities that are neither adapted to cultural transmission per se, nor geared towards the reproduction of behaviours (or thoughts). In this view, the very same cognitive mechanisms that preserve some traditions also distort others. These transformations need not impede cultural stability: reinvention can lead to repair, or to the birth of more appealing traditions: humans transmit their culture because they fail to imitate it.
This hypothesis has been most clearly defended by a research trend known as “cultural attraction theory.” The talk will explore two of its consequences, which will be explored with data drawn from quantitative cultural history and ranging from childhood folklore to art history, from the study of writing systems to big-data analyses of literary trends.
First, cultural survival is not necessarily dependent on the number of relays that a tradition has to go through. High-fidelity replication preserves all of a model’s features, including mistakes from previous replications. If it drove cultural transmission, multiple transmission episodes should bring information loss. By contrast, if transmission is a reinvention, not a replication, then traditions may thrive on being handed down many times. Children’s games and rhymes are a case in point. Second, cultural attraction theory predicts that, because people transform what they transmit in predictable ways, we should observe protracted directional changes in cultural history—changes so regular and lasting that they cannot be explained by the influence of the leaders or majorities that dominate a given society at a given time: the steady rise of direct gaze poses in two portrait traditions (Europe and Korea) will serve as an example.
Olivier Morin is a researcher in theoretical cognitive anthropology, in charge of the Independent Max Planck Research Group “Minds and Traditions” at the MPI for the Science of Human History in Jena (Germany). After a PhD at the Paris École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, supervised by Dan Sperber and devoted to the study of cultural transmission, he has held research positions in Central Europe, at the Central European University in Budapest and the KLI Institute (Klosterneuburg, Austria). His book, How Traditions Live and Die was published in December 2015 by Oxford University Press.
2015 AWARD WINNER: Gert Stulp
Plenary Title: Evolutionary adaptations and unexplored assumptions: questioning the
mismatched stone-age mind
Abstract: What sets Evolutionary Psychology apart from other (evolutionary) approaches to human behaviour is the idea that our brain consists of a large number of domain-specific adaptations or ‘functional specializations’. These adaptations are identified using a method of reverse engineering, which characterises recurring adaptive problems in our evolutionary past and then specifies the design features needed to solve such problems. One implication
of this approach is that the adaptations so identified need not serve an adaptive function in the present day, and hence there is often a mismatch between our evolved psychology and modern human lifestyles. Here, I question these premises, suggesting that a mismatch must be established empirically, rather than assumed, and that the process of reverse engineering is anything but straightforward. In addition, I suggest that a strongly adaptationist perspective has some undesirable consequences, including devaluing studies of present-day behaviour and those demonstrating current adaptiveness, and not appreciating fully the influence of (social) learning and how culture fundamentally shapes the brain. I conclude that the functional perspective used by Evolutionary Psychology is preferable over psychological
theories that lack such a perspective, but that ideas of domain-specific adaptations and mismatches should be given much less weight. In so doing, EP would complement, rather than oppose, other (evolutionary) theories of human behaviour.
- Stulp, G., Buunk, A. P., Kurzban, R., & Verhulst, S. (2013). The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation for both sexes. Animal Behaviour, 86(1), 37-46.
- Stulp, G., & Barrett, L. (in press). Evolutionary perspectives on human height variation. Biological Reviews.
2014 AWARD WINNER: Willem Frankenhuis
Plenary Title: How does natural selection shape development?
Abstract: Fused together, evolutionary and developmental science can generate predictions about: (1) what traits to expect at different life stages; (2) what phenotypic variation to expect depending on ecology; (3) what patterns of ontogenetic change to expect depending on ecology. In this talk, I will discuss theory and data bearing on these topics. I will focus on recent models showing that natural selection can result in mechanisms that produce sensitive periods in development. Such models may illuminate the roles of chronological age and previous life experiences in shaping the extent of plasticity (its retention and decline) across the human life span.
- Frankenhuis, W.E., & de Weerth, C. (2013). Does early-life exposure to stress shape or impair cognition? Current Directions in Psychological Science 22(5), 407-412.
- Frankenhuis, W.E., & Panchanathan, K. (2011). Balancing sampling and specialization: an adaptationist model of incremental development. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 278, 3558-3565.
2013 AWARD WINNER: David Lawson
Plenary Title: Natural Selection on Wealth and Fertility in Humans
Abstract: Life history theory argues that all organisms have two main goals – 1) competitively extract resources from the ecological and social environment and then 2) selectively allocate these resources to reproduction in a way that maximizes inclusive fitness. In this talk, building on the work of a number of evolutionary anthropologists and demographers, I argue that natural selection has shaped humans to rely on largely distinct proximate pathways to address these two goals. Resource accumulation is a cognitively taxing and complex social process, requiring considerable context-dependent plasticity and conscious goal-directed strategizing. A review of studies of fertility and offspring success however suggests that automatic physiological mechanisms, which suppress reproduction only when maternal or child survival is at immediate risk, have been sufficient to ensure optimal reproductive behaviour throughout most of human history. Recognizing this distinction exposes our inherent vulnerability to maladaptive decision-making in novel environments where wealth accumulation is now in conflict with reproductive opportunities for both men and women – improving our understanding of why fertility rates plummet when populations undergo socioeconomic development (i.e. the demographic transition). I review empirical evidence that supports the hypothesis that modern low fertility rates can be understood as a response to increased status competition and returns to high parental investment, and that fertility limitation is ultimately maladaptive in terms of both short and long-term fitness. Finally, I critique recent studies concluding that natural selection continues to act positively on wealth even in contemporary low fertility populations, and argue that natural selection is now acting negatively on strategies of wealth accumulation and is for the first time strongly favouring individuals that desire early childbearing and large families regardless of the socioeconomic consequences.
- Lawson, D.W., Alvergne, A. & Gibson, M.A. (2012). The life-history trade-off between fertility and child survival. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279: 4755-4764.
- Goodman, A., Koupil, I. & Lawson D.W. (2012). Low fertility increases descendant socioeconomic position but reduces long-term fitness in a modern post-industrial society. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279: 4342-4351.
- Lawson, D.W. & Mace R. (2011). Parental investment and the optimization of human family size. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, 333-343.
2012 AWARD WINNER: Pontus Striming
Plenary Title: Sadly, general models can’t predict the outcome of cultural evolution
Abstract: One goal of the study of cultural evolution is to predict
how the outcome of cultural change is structured and what cultural
traits are likely to be in it. Very much like population genetics is
interested in the structure of the equlibria and what genes are likely
to be in it. In fact researchers modeling cultural evolution have been
hopeful that models from population genetics, with small alterations,
would be sufficient to generate such predictions in cultural
evolution. However, after extensive research this turned out not to be
the case. In this talk, I bring more bad news to the table. Not only
can we not adapt population genetics models; we will probably never
create general models for cultural evolution that predict as well as
general models do in population genetics. There, details that at first
seemed essential, such as whether the species was haploid or diploid,
turned out not to matter in many cases. This resulted in simple models
with high predictive value. In cultural evolution, we are not so lucky.
In this talk I go through several specific factors, such as the number
of cultural parents or the size of the initial population, each of
which radically changes the predictions of the models. Creating a
general model that accounts for all these factors is probably
impossible. So in the case of cultural evolution, general models will
either be too complex to study or run the risk of giving faulty
predictions. I conclude by outlining strategies for escaping this
dilemma by using specific models that rely heavily on empirical data.
- Strimling, P., Enquist, M. & Eriksson, K. (2009). Repeated learning makes cultural evolution unique. PNAS,
- Strimling, P., Sjöstrand, J., Enquist, M. & Eriksson, K. (2009). Accumulation of independent cultural traits. Theoretical Population Biology, 76(2): 77-83.
- Enquist, M., Strimling, P., Eriksson, K., Laland, K. & Sjöstrand, J. (2010). One cultural parent makes no
culture. Animal Behaviour, 79: 1353-1362.
2011 AWARD WINNER: Thom Scott-Phillips
Plenary Title: Communication, cognition, and the evolution of language
Abstract: Speaking very broadly, we can identify two different approaches to communication: the code model, in which meaning is fully encoded in the signal, and inferential communication, in which speakers provide evidence for their intended meaning, and listeners use that evidence to infer the speaker’s meaning. Probably most animal communication is of the former type, but human linguistic communication is of the latter type. There are several evolutionary questions we can ask about inferential communication. What are the cognitive foundations of inferential communication, and how did they evolve? How does inference affect the cultural evolution of communication systems? Do only humans have inferential communication? In my talk, I will describe the research I have conducted that begins to shed light on these questions.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2010). Evolutionary psychology and the origins of language, Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 8(4), 289-307.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. & Kirby, S. (2010). Language evolution in the laboratory, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14(9), 411-417.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Kirby, S. & Ritchie, G. R. S. (2009). Signalling signalhood and the emergence of communication, Cognition 113(2), 226-233.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2008). Defining biological communication, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 21(2), 387-395.
2010 AWARD WINNER: Dr Alex Alvergne
Plenary Title: Variation in human paternal care – ultimate and proximate factors
Abstract: During recent decades, an increase in paternal involvement in childcare in occidental societies has led many to question the role of fathers beyond traditionally prescribed functions of breadwinner, moral authority and masculine role model. Anthropological studies have also highlighted the considerable diversity in fatherhoods between and within human cultural groups. Taking an integrative evolutionary perspective, I address both ultimate and proximate factors underlying the expression of paternal care, and consider the impact of such variation on child development and later reproductive success. According to evolutionary theories of parental investment and kin selection, father investment is expected to vary depending on socio-ecological factors such as paternity uncertainty and mating opportunities. Drawing on data collected from France and Senegal, I argue that paternity uncertainty has constituted an important selective pressure on the use of paternity cues by men (i.e. odour and facial similarity), as well as a manipulation by women of men’s perception. Furthermore, I show that the expression of paternal investment is traded-off with mating investment, and mediated through hormonal mechanisms. Finally, I found that the link between paternal investment and fitness-related traits in children depends on the studied population. Overall, this research increases our understanding of the socio-ecological and hormonal factors associated with paternal investment, and highlights the relevance of an evolutionary approach to the study of human behaviour. It also provides a general model to address currently challenging questions such as why father investment has recently experienced a dramatic increase in western societies.
- Alvergne, A., Faurie, C., Raymond, M. (2009). Father-offspring resemblance predicts paternal investment in humans. Animal Behaviour, 78: 61-69.
- Alvergne, A., Faurie, C. and Raymond, M. (2010). Are parents’ perceptions of offspring facial resemblance consistent with actual resemblance? Effects on parental investment. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 31:7-15.
- Alvergne, A. & E. Huchard, et al. (2010). More than friends? Behavioural and genetic aspects of heterosexual associations in wild chacma baboons. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 64(5):769-781.
- Alvergne, A., Jokela, M., & Lummaa, V. (2010). Personality and reproductive success in a high fertility human population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 107(26):11745-11750.