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THIS VIEW OF LIFE
Reaching a New Plateau for the Acceptance of Multilevel Selection
A new plateau for the acceptance of Multilevel Selection theory, an indispensable theoretical framework for understanding human evolution, is both warranted and within reach.
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                    [post_content] => In the essays presented by Whitehouse and Wilson, both authors present an account on developing field sites for studying cultural evolution. The target essays are presented from the viewpoints of an evolutionary biologist (David Sloan Wilson) and an anthropologist (Harvey Whitehouse). While I am generally supportive of their proposition, there are also logistical concerns with maintaining field sites that should be discussed. This commentary is presented from the viewpoint of a cognitive anthropologist and a recent doctoral graduate who, despite a relatively short career, has conducted her own research at multiple field sites.

There is a particular point, stressed by Whitehouse, which I believe should be a focus of future research projects. Namely, evolutionary approaches should be the theoretical foundation for the investigations at field sites such as those described by Whitehouse and Wilson. Whitehouse has noted that the differences between Psychology (EP) and Evolutionary Theories of Culture (ETC) may not be that great. This is not a new stance, as he has argued for it before (Whitehouse, 2004). Synthesizing the different evolutionary approaches to culture should be a target for projects such as those outlined in the target articles. This is because finding a theoretical framework that is appropriate for investigating the wide variety of cultures targeted by projects such as AnthroLab must walk a fine line between generalizability and contextual sensitivity. However, as outlined here and elsewhere, it has been noted that both EP and ETC have their merits in helping to develop new hypotheses for research. Although many question the utility of ETC as anything more than an analogy to biological evolution (Knudt, 2015), the general focus of cultural evolution on information that is socially learned provides a focus to what it is about human social groups that make them unique. This focus on unique socially learned behaviours can be combined with evolutionary psychology, which posits that human minds evolved in order to process such social information. By assuming that all naturally developed human minds share a suite of cognitive mechanisms which evolved to process different information—including socially transmitted information (a point stressed in earlier writing on evolutionary psychology, e.g. Tooby & Cosmides, 1992, p. 24)—we can use evolutionary theory as a foundation for the study of culture.

I find the proposition of synthesizing EP and ETC quite persuasive, as I have embraced it in my own research. During my most recent fieldwork, I studied how the development of executive function and the ability to delay gratification in children can be manipulated by adopting a ritual stance or instrumental stance (Rybanska, McKay, Jong, & Whitehouse, in press). Briefly, individuals adopt an instrumental stance towards learning instrumental skills, assuming that the modelled actions are performed in the service of a specific concrete goal in accordance with normal expectations about physical causation (e.g. washing hands). On the other hand, individuals adopt a ritual stance towards learning conventional, ritualised behaviours, i.e. actions are executed in a certain way simply because it is demanded by a convention, with no clear links between actions and goals (e.g. ritual washing). These different ways of approaching actions (as instrumental or ritual) should have effects on our cognitive mechanisms. More specifically, because a ritual stance demands close attention to actions and the necessity to perform these actions correctly, it puts greater demands on executive function. This generated the hypothesis that performing actions that promoted the adoption of a ritual stance—as opposed to an instrumental stance—should have positive effects on executive function. I took this hypothesis to not one, but two field sites: Slovakia and Vanuatu. What I found was that adopting a ritual stance increased executive function and the ability to delay gratification in both field sites, and there were no significant differences between the two (Rybanska, et al., in press). In this way, one can argue that the cognitive underpinnings of executive function, the ability to delay gratification, and even those that govern the adoption of ritual or instrumental stances are likely evolved psychological mechanisms that recur cross-culturally and develop at similar points in childhood.



However, it does not take a keen eye to see that there are vast differences in the rituals performed in Vanuatu and Slovakia. While most rituals in Slovakia would be familiar to anyone with basic knowledge of Central European cultures, rituals in Vanuatu can sometimes involve rare, dangerous rituals, such as land diving, where men jump from a wooden tower with only vines tied around their ankles. At the same time, some communities in Vanuatu have been exposed to European missionary efforts, and have adopted many of their ritual practices. The historical contexts that outline the shifts from one form of ritual to another can be interpreted through the lens of cultural evolution, as noted by both Whitehouse and Wilson.



Although as a cognitive anthropologist I greatly appreciate both Wilson and Whitehouse stressing the importance of fieldwork, as a researcher  who operated in multiple field locations in both Europe and the South Pacific I would like to stress a logistical issue that cannot be overlooked; namely, the  issue of funding. While Wilson suggests that funding is not of utmost importance, the idea that this sort of research can be sustained at a university without funding is unrealistic. Students, particularly graduate students—who are producing much of the work in the field—cannot sustain themselves, pay the fees requested by universities, and sustain a field site without additional funding; even paying undergraduates “very affordable wages” is an additional cost not afforded to most researchers out of tenure track. Although Wilson appears to recognize that tenured faculty have certain liberties to pursue such research because they are permanently salaried, such positions are increasingly rare (The American Federation of Teachers, 2003) and currently some universities are employing as many as 70% of their employees on temporary contracts (Chakrabortty & Weale, 2016). Such a system is not conducive to setting up and sustaining field sites in and around universities. Furthermore, setting up and sustaining field sites in multiple remote locations entail additional costs of travel and lodging which are not feasible given the economic circumstances of many researchers who are not beneficiaries of research grants. As such, the sustenance of the field sites may be subject to fits and spurts of research as they fall between cracks in funding cycles.

Whitehouse acknowledges that “one of the most obvious barriers to progress is funding”. However, one could add that it is not just securing funding, but the efficient and appropriate allocation of funds to sustain a project as ambitious as that outlined by Whitehouse, which involve costs such as research assistance, travel, lodging, equipment costs, and other research expenses. It is true that some research expenses can be cut down. Using my own research project as an example, I studied the vernacular language of Vanuatu (Bislama) which enabled me to not only conduct all of my research in the field without a translator and thus eliminating significant costs, but also, as an anthropologist I was able to create greater rapport with the local communities. Although this is an imperative for establishing a field site, it is being neglected by many researchers, creating distance and lost meanings between researchers and communities. From an anthropological perspective, creating bonds with the local communities is of high importance, although this is not always the case as some researchers treat local communities as merely their own personal participant pool.



Logistical concerns notwithstanding, it is admirable that both Whitehouse and Wilson are emphasizing the importance of fieldwork for the study of culture. It is true that this has been underrated and neglected and many researchers have felt that field work can be replaced by lab experiments with college students. Wilson and Whitehouse are right that in order for us to understand culture, it is in relation to our environments, both biological—as stressed by evolutionary psychology—and social—as stressed by cultural evolution—and that a well validated theoretical perspective can generate insights and explanations that lab experiments alone cannot provide.

References
Chakrabortty, A., & Weale, S. (2016, November 16). Universities accused of ’ importing Sports Direct model ’ for lecturers ’ pay. The Guardian, p. 2. London. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/16/universities-accused-of-importing-sports-direct-model-for-lecturers-pay

Kundt, R. (2015). Contemporary evolutionary theories of culture and the study of religion. London New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Rybanska, V., Mckay, R., Jong, J., & Whitehouse, H. (in press). Rituals improve children's ability to delay gratification. Child Development.

The American Federation of Teachers. (2003). The Growth of Full-time Faculty Challenges for the Union (No. 36–0700). Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED497913.pdf

Tooby, J & Cosmides, L. (1992). The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In Barkow, J., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (eds.) The Adapted mind : evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Whitehouse, H. (2004). Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.


Images copyrighted by Veronika Rybanska. All rights reserved. 

                    [post_title] => Addressing the Field Site Concept: A Cognitive Anthropologist’s View
                    [post_excerpt] => In order for us to understand culture, it is in relation to our environments, both biological—as stressed by evolutionary psychology—and social—as stressed by cultural evolution. A well validated theoretical perspective can generate insights and explanations that lab experiments alone cannot provide.
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                    [post_content] => In a set of two captivating essays, Harvey Whitehouse and David Sloan Wilson share their views on the role of the field site concept in the study of cultural evolution. They each present a vision for a holistic research paradigm that combines contextual sensitivity with methodological rigor. I salute this view, and I attempt to add to the point by drawing from my own research experience.

As someone who was trained across disciplines and has spent several years in the field as well as in various laboratories, I have come to appreciate the benefits of each research paradigm but also to be wary of their respective limitations. More importantly, I have come to realize that the lab and the field are not antagonistic modes of inquiry but two sides of the same coin. I find the “two cultures” problem raised in Whitehouse’s essay to be the greatest impediment to a holistic understanding of human nature, because it creates a false dichotomy, expressed along numerous dimensions: explanation versus understanding, measurement versus observation, laboratory versus field, and so on. I find such dichotomies counter-productive, and often detached from reality, as they are primarily the product of specific socio-political factors pertaining to academia itself rather than a response to discontinuities found in the natural world.

It is true that methodological specialization is necessary to deal with the complexity of our world. However, one should not mistake a discipline’s limitations for its virtues, or confound what is convenient with what is desirable. Laboratory experiments afford precision and simplicity. But while precision is always desirable, simplicity is a mere methodological tool that helps us increase precision, and it comes at a steep cost: in the human behavioral sciences, the more we simplify the phenomena we examine the more we move away from them, as the complexity we are trying to reduce is an inextricable part of what we want to isolate (Boster, 2011). Inversely, field observation allows social scientists to study precisely the things that matter to them (real-life), but is very difficult to conduct in truly scientific fashion (although, as Wilson points out, not impossible). But to argue, as some cultural anthropologists do, that scientific methods are undesirable rather than simply hard to implement seems like the result of cognitive dissonance.

As a result of this fallacious thinking, we are led to not only methodological but also epistemological and even ontological encapsulation between disciplines. This leaves us with a landscape in the study of human behavior where the vast majority of studies gravitate around one of two main attractors: on the one hand (upper-left in the graph), we have ethnographic field studies, which are high in ecological relevance and validity but low in control and precision; and on the other hand (bottom-right), we have lab studies, which are high in control but low in relevance. What we all want, of course, is the closet possible approximation of that (possibly unattainable in itself) ideal top-right corner. And the best way to reach that space is by building a methodological bridge that connects field and laboratory methods. This bridge can provide a path for cross-disciplinary dialogue and mutual enrichment, as well as the scaffolding for inter-disciplinary approaches that combine the strengths of each type of method.



Naturalistic experiments (typically pseudo-experiments that employ precise quantification in a real-life setting without random assignment) may allow the researcher to assess phenomena that cannot be studied either in controlled experiments or by participant-observation. For example, my colleagues and I have studied the inter-personal alignment of psycho-physiological states during the performance of large-scale, highly arousing collective rituals (Bulbulia et al., 2013; Konvalinka et al., 2011; Fischer et al., 2014). Such studies would have been impossible to conduct in a laboratory setting because, a myriad practical reasons aside, these rituals are heavily laden with meaning that cannot be evoked at will in an artificial context. Neither would we have been able to approach our questions on the basis of ethnography alone, as we were interested in internal states that are often inaccessible to participants (Xygalatas et al., 2013).

Some times, controlled experiments are also possible in the field. For example, when we wanted to study the effects of environmental cues on behavior, instead of using a highly controlled but artificial laboratory environment, we went out to the real world and used temples, restaurants, and libraries, and either randomly assigned participants to different locations or made minor interventions to the environment itself (Krátký et al., 2016; Xygalatas et al., 2016). Thus, by embracing the complexity of the real world while giving up only limited control, these designs too offered cumulative benefits that neither ethnographic observation nor laboratory experiments alone could offer.

Needless to say, some things are better studied in specific ways. If we are interested in the favorite topics of gossip within a community, conversations with trusted informants will reveal more than any quantitative method. But if we are interested in neurological reactions to gossip, the controlled environment of the neuroscience laboratory is ideal. Which brings us to another important reason for building that bridge between the lab and the field.

The systematic, incremental production of scientific knowledge consists of a circle which connects observation, theory, prediction, testing, and re-evaluation. Each time the circle is repeated, we (hopefully) become a little bit wiser. As Wilson points out, laboratory research must be informed by field observation in order to ask the right questions. But as Whitehouse emphasizes, observation and description are not the same as explanation –that requires experimentation and systematic comparison. Any individual study can only tell us so much. To gain a holistic understanding of social evolution, we need to consider cumulative evidence, completing the puzzle one piece at a time. And to do that, we need to move back and forth between field and lab studies, but also, crucially, to understand that neither the former always need to be devoid of control, not the latter must always be detached from real-life settings. The two authors offer compelling arguments on why and how to do this, including the nitty-gritty of establishing, running, maintaining, and connecting field projects. They warn that this is not an easy task: it is expensive, time-consuming, and requires overcoming long-established disciplinary boundaries. I know all of that to be true from personal experience. But I also know the cumulative benefits of combining laboratory and field methods to be greater than the sum of their parts

Literature Cited
Boster, J. (2011). Data, method, and interpretation in cognitive anthropology. In: A Companion to Cognitive Anthropology.

Bulbulia, J., D. Xygalatas, U. Schjødt, S. Fondevila, C. Sibley & I. Konvalinka (2013). Images From a Jointly-Arousing Collective Ritual Reveal Emotional Polarization, Frontiers in Psychology 4, article 960.

Fischer, R., D. Xygalatas, P. Mitkidis, P. Reddish, I. Konvalinka & J. Bulbulia (2014). The fire-walker’s high: Affect and physiological responses in an extreme collective ritual. PLOS ONE 9(2): e88355

Konvalinka, I., D. Xygalatas, J. Bulbulia, U. Schjødt, E. Jegindø, S. Wallot, G. Van Orden & A. Roepstorff (2011). Synchronized arousal between performers and related spectators in a fire-walking ritual, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 108 (20): 8514-8519

Krátký, J., J. McGraw, D. Xygalatas, P. Mitkidis, & P. Reddish (2016). It depends who is watching you: 3-dimensional agent representations increase generosity in a naturalistic setting, PLOS ONE 11(2): e0148845

Xygalatas, D., U. Schjødt, J. Bulbulia, I. Konvalinka, E. Jegindø, P. Reddish, A. W. Geertz & A. Roepstorff (2013). Autobiographical Memory in a Fire-Walking Ritual. Journal of Cognition and Culture 13(1-2): 1-16

Xygalatas, D., Kundtová Klocová, E., Cigán, J., Kundt, R., Maňo, P., Kotherová, S., Mitkidis, P. , Wallot, S. & Kanovsky, M. (2016). Location, location, location: Effects of cross-religious primes on prosocial behavior, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 26(4): 304–319

Image via Lawrence Michaels.
                    [post_title] => Bridging the gap between laboratory and field
                    [post_excerpt] => To gain a holistic understanding of social evolution, we need to consider cumulative evidence, completing the puzzle one piece at a time. And to do that, we need to move back and forth between field and lab studies.
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                    [post_content] => The creation of field stations for the study of cultural evolution akin to the ecological stations that Wilson describes represents a significant departure from traditional anthropology where data are collected by just one or two researchers at a time using largely qualitative methods. At the Centre of Anthropology and Mind, Oxford, we have been pioneering a new kind of field research with special populations known for their high levels of in-group loyalty and inter-group rivalry: football fans. There is a wealth of sociological and psychological literature on football cultures, but, as Whitehouse points out, descriptions are not the same as explanations derived from controlled experiments. Using a pan-global network of football fans (starting with the UK, Brazil, and Australia) we have been investigating social cohesion, altruism, and out-group hostility.

Following observational fieldwork and interviews with fans in the UK, we generated research questions and took them to the field: the FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil, 2014. Here we collaborated with a research group at a local university who specialised in obtaining physiological measures and provided us with local RAs, who we trained in our approach. We then collected data from around 400 football fans during live national matches: at fan sites, in stadia, and in field laboratories, which we set up in hostels and community centres to collect physiological measures including salivary cortisol. For this study, most participants talked to each other, many were hard to contact for our follow up measures, and some consumed alcohol – everything you wouldn’t want in a laboratory. However, what we lacked in control, we made up for with ecological validity and supporting qualitative data to improve pervious designs to test group loyalty in British football fans (Newson et al., 2016) and out-group violence among Brazilian football hooligans (Newson et al., under review).

Field sites provide a setting not only for observational work but also experimental methodologies. Football fandom is a good example of how field laboratories enable experimentalists to access the richness of human culture. In the study above, the intensity of a live game, surrounded by other fans shouting, cheering, and crying, provided us with emotionally charged participants and created rich, textured data; helping us to set future research questions that were grounded in reality.

References
NEWSON, M., BUHRMESTER, M. & WHITEHOUSE, H. 2016. Explaining Lifelong Loyalty: The Role of Identity Fusion and Self-Shaping Group Events. PloS one, 11, e0160427.

NEWSON, M., Bortolini, T., da Silva, S., Acquino, J., Buhrmester,  M., Whitehouse, H. (under review) Brazil's Football Soldiers. PNAS.
                    [post_title] => Response to: Developing the Field Site Concept for the Study of Cultural Evolution
                    [post_excerpt] => Field sites provide a setting not only for observational work but also experimental methodologies. Football fandom is a good example of how field laboratories enable experimentalists to access the richness of human culture.
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                    [post_content] =>  

Harvey Whitehouse and David Sloan Wilson write two important commentaries on the role of field sites in the study of cultural evolution. Their contribution is especially timely considering the recent formation of the Cultural Evolution Society (CES). We have had the pleasure of working with Wilson and Whitehouse as part of the society’s steering committee and in this commentary we offer a psychological perspective on their vision of field sites in cultural evolution science. First, we seek to clarify what exactly a “field site” is in the context of research on human behavior. Next, we offer some recommendations for the types of field sites that may best serve cultural evolution as the field gathers momentum.

Briefly Considering Definitions
Consider whether the following data-collection centers should qualify as “field sites”:

Center A: A zoo-based research laboratory, where non-human animals are raised and studied in captivity.

 Center B: A study of fraternities and sororities at a large public university.

Center C: A study of online gaming communities which offer small amounts of money for participants to fill out online research surveys.

Center D: A small village in Papua New Guinea where a team of scientists are collecting behavioral data from local inhabitants.

Based on their commentaries, it is fairly clear that Wilson and Whitehouse do not consider Center A to qualify as a field site. Both authors point out that field sites take place at specific geographical locations where organisms can be observed in their natural habitat. These sorts of investigations can yield insights that experiments on captive animal populations could never offer. Wilson cites birds’ migratory patterns—which could never be observed in captive populations—as an example of such insights.

However, it is less clear whether under the authors’ definitions, Centers B-D would qualify. Whitehouse appears to disparage university campus research, noting that “restricting the study of cultural evolution to university campuses would arguably be equivalent to trying to study biological evolution exclusively in a zoo or aquarium,” yet human subjects in a university laboratory actually have far more in common with Peter and Rosmary Grant’s finches than any animal in captivity; both laboratory undergraduates and wild finches are living in a rich naturalistic environment—such as the above case of living in fraternities and sororities—that is informing their responses to experimental conditions and stimuli.

Similarly, in a study of online communities, participants may be taking a survey on a computer, but well-designed surveys of the dynamics of such communities approximate real life experiences in meaningful ways. In this sense, a high quality computer survey could rival any in which researchers fly to far-flung areas of the world to personally run experiments using non-WEIRD samples (“Center D”). In both cases, experimenters are testing valid theories of cultural evolution using targeted populations.

This exercise suggests that we need to be wary of using a narrow definition of “field sites” in the study of human behavior. Are they data collection centers where scientists study a specific population’s interaction with their environment? If so, many centers (virtual or face-to-face) where people collect data from human subjects could qualify as a field site. Or are they data collection centers where researchers study a small sample over time? If so, then hardly any mode of human subject data collection qualifies as a field site; indeed, this latter definition seems prohibitively narrow to serve as the paradigmatic foundation for a field as broad as cultural evolution.

Moving Beyond Definitions
The previous section’s semantic puzzle suggests that we should be doing more than simply recommending that researchers use field sites. Instead, we should be offering guidelines for how researchers should be employing their field sites broadly construed (i.e. centers of data collection on human behavior) to best serve cultural evolution theory. To this end, we offer three simple methodological recommendations—based on our own research experience—for how field sites should best be employed in cultural evolution scholarship.
  1. Field Sites Should Be Cross-Cultural. Each human society operates within unique ecological constraints, and cross-cultural research is ideal for mapping the influence of ecological variance on cultural evolution. For example, in our research, we have found that levels of ecological threat facilitate the development of stronger cultural norms (cultural tightness). This relationship occurs because cultures under threat face increased pressure to coordinate their behavior to sufficiently compete with other cultural groups, and we would never have observed it had we not been able to collect survey and archival data from 33 countries alongside dozens of international collaborators. We define “cross-cultural” very broadly—it could include but is not limited to variation across national, state, community, religious, class, and ethnic groups.
  1. Field Sites Should Be Multi-Method. Research on human behavior should operate at multiple levels of analysis using multiple methods to test for theoretical convergence. Human behavior varies from society to society, from state to state, from situation to situation, and from person to person. A strong cultural evolution theory should make predictions at each of these levels of analysis, and doing so requires methodological breadth. In our research on culture and norms, a combination of big data analysis, experimental designs, survey data, computational models, and neuroimaging have revealed that tightness-looseness has a fractal nature—no matter what the context, threat facilitates the development of stronger norms, which results in a range of downstream effects on attitudes and behavior which we refer to as the tight-loose trade-off for nations, states, groups, and individuals. Tight groups, for example, have greater order and self-regulation but greater ethnocentrism; loose groups have much more disorder and self-regulation challenges, but are more open and creative. By investigating this trade-off across levels and with multiple methods, we can begin to build general principles for the field of cultural evolution. 
  1. Field Sites Should Be Interdisciplinary. One exciting feature of cultural evolution research is its post-disciplinary nature. The CES membership already involves dozens of fields, and research in cultural evolution often involves interdepartmental collaboration. This approach to science minimizes the risk of theoretical redundancy, and helps researchers learn from one another, rather than talking past each other. Field sites should be no different, and we have tried to capitalize on interdisciplinarity in our research on tightness-looseness. At the moment, we are collaborating with anthropologists, computer scientists, political scientists, sociologists, management scholars, neuroscientists, and biologists in an effort to better understand the relationship between ecology and the strength of social norms. These collaborations have expanded the questions we ask, the way we can test them, the samples on which we test them, and have helped us broaden the implications of our findings.
We derive these insights from our own research, but see no reason why they shouldn’t apply to cultural evolution methodology in general. Indeed, given that field sites connote very different meanings across human and animal behavior, we believe that simply recommending them may not be enough to paradigmatically guide cultural evolution scholarship. If field sites are cross-cultural, multi-method, and collaborative across disciplines, however, they can improve the quality of our field, and help us make major steps toward understanding the evolution of human behavior. [post_title] => Defining and Implementing Field Sites in Cultural Evolution Science [post_excerpt] => If field sites are cross-cultural, multi-method, and collaborative across disciplines, however, they can improve the quality of our field, and help us make major steps toward understanding the evolution of human behavior. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => defining-and-implementing-field-sites-in-cultural-evolution-science [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-30 10:19:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-30 15:19:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://evolution-institute.org/?post_type=commentary&p=120005960 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => commentary [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 120005936 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2016-12-28 14:56:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-28 19:56:40 [post_content] => D.S. Wilson & Harvey Whitehouse’s essays offer a timely call for a reappraisal of the role of ‘field sites’ when attempting to explore processes of cultural evolution. Since one of us is a cognitive anthropologist and both of us have collected data ‘in the field’ at ritual events in Japan, we fully recognise the value of cultural evolution researchers entering ‘the field’ and conducting studies amongst actual communities. And whether this involves learning new methods to translate research protocols for the field or collaborating with those who already have such expertise is immaterial. The important point is that the central role of field research is acknowledged. In this response, however we do not seek to offer just cheerleading approval. Indeed, as individuals who have worked closely with Harvey Whitehouse on ritual research projects we can hardly be considered unbiased commentators. Consequently, we do not provide an in-depth critical review of the target articles but instead offer, first, a complementary recommendation and, second, an important note of caution concerning ‘field site’ research. In Wilson’s article, he raises an argument that he has stated repeatedly: that evolution can serve as a general framework to unify research in the social sciences, including that conducted in the ‘field’. We agree with this and note that there are several researchers who have already demonstrated how productive such a perspective can prove. However, we also wish to emphasise that rather than being just an effort to recommend in the future it is equally important for previous social science research that was not necessarily collected within an evolutionary framework to be reappraised. Alex Mesoudi’s (2008) research, for example, incorporates a selection of theoretical models from social psychology, including work addressing the conditions for imitation and social learning (e.g. Asch, 1951; Festinger, 1954; Bandura; 1977), but explores their implications from an explicitly evolutionary perspective. Moreover, we also have numerous examples of how adopting an evolutionary perspective can help to dissolve interdisciplinary boundaries, enabling biologists and social scientists to work together (e.g. Conradt & List, 2009; List, Elsholtz & Seeley, 2009; Kameda, Wisdom, Toyokawa, & Inukai, 2012). Pre-Darwinian theoretical models in political science from as early as the 18th century (Condorcet Jury Theorem; cf. List, 2004) are also being used productively as one of the basic models of collective intelligence that can be used to model collective competence in biology (Sumpter & Pratt, 2009; Wolf et al., 2013). These are just a few examples which demonstrate that taking account of evolutionary theory does not automatically require that the extensive existing social science findings be discarded. Instead, a critical reappraisal is necessary, to avoid wasting time ‘reinventing the wheel’. A clear parallel can be drawn here from the immensurable benefits extracted in post-Darwinian biological research from the diverse body of observational data collected prior to the development of the theory. Social science research, including material from the arts and humanities, could prove equally important to researchers of cultural evolution in the 21st Century. There are already examples of how productive such efforts can prove, including research based on phylogenetic analyses which rely on pre-existing data from linguistics (Grey & Atkinson; 2003), anthropology (Atkinson & Whitehouse, 2011; Wats, Sheehan, Atkinson, Bulbulia & Grey, 2016) and archaeology (O’Brien, Darwent & Lyman, 2001). The field of cultural psychology also represents a vast and still developing repository of information that researchers of cultural evolution should be advised to consult regularly. This is not to endorse the methods or the robustness of all the various cross-cultural theories, but to emphasise that much work has already been done in identifying cultural landscapes with relation to geo-political or ecological factors (e.g. Gelfand et al., 2011, Talhlem et al., 2014). Clearly there is still much work to be done and a vast quantity of existing second hand material that should be consulted and analysed. Yet, it is also the case that first-hand experience with field research is hard to overestimate. Both Wilson and Whitehouse, despite long productive careers, clearly regard their own early experiences in the field as being formative and of immense value for their later research. Based on our own experiences, we would fully echo this sentiment. However, the note of caution we wish to raise arises precisely due to the romantic allure of the field and the extra credibility that (often) accompanies ‘field site’ data. Although the unpredictable nature of field research can leave those trained in traditional tightly controlled laboratory studies feeling very uncomfortable, it is paradoxically the case that field research which is cross-cultural, and includes non-WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialised Rich & Developed) samples is accorded a certain level of prestige and attention. At the time of writing, google scholar records 2247 citations for Henrich et al.’s paradigmatic 2001 paper in this mould and 1062 citations for a 2006 follow up on costly punishment. Admittedly these were ground-breaking papers, but the point we wish to emphasis is that while there remains steadfast opposition to field site studies in certain quarters, in many respects the battle for the need for field-based research is a battle which has already been won. And the interest in Henrich et al.’s papers reflect that. But the increasing prestige for studies with diverse field site research also brings with it potential risks. The first is a point raised by traditional social and cultural anthropologists, that empirically-minded researchers occasionally seek to extract data from a field site a) without being willing to put the necessary time into understanding the local context and b) with little thought of ‘giving back’ to the community, except maybe through acknowledgements in papers that most of their participants will never read. The unofficial term for this is “helicopter research” because it involves parachuting in and then quickly departing from a research site (see Flicker et al. 2007). This is a serious issue and is one of the reasons that attempting to develop genuine collaborations with anthropologists and other experts who engage in long-term research is essential for those who may be new to ‘field site’ based research and do not have contacts with a targeted community/area. Opportunistic short-term collaborations are sometimes appropriate, but we argue that the standard procedure should be to develop long term relationships and a deeper personal familiarity with any field site that is the subject of research. There also needs to be efforts made to offer meaningful benefits to the communities studied, where this is possible. Compensating participants for their time is a basic requirement, but there are many other less-direct ways to provide something valuable to communities without compromising research ethics. For example, when collecting responses for an online survey on ritualised promotional experiences amongst Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners, we also collected more general information about training experiences and then presented the information as infographics on a freely accessible website (www.bjjsurveys.com). This was warmly received by the wider BJJ community and entailed no substantial financial cost. This is not a call to adopt the advocacy model widely found in social and cultural anthropology, which brings with it the potential for a host of conflicts of interest, rather it is to advocate that as a field we should seek to early on establish good standards of practice. Another general risk of field site research relates to the eventual presentation of research and the potential increase in researcher degrees of freedom that uncontrolled field environments provide. Consider, for example, the image below: This is an isolated booth we built in the corner of Daishoin, a Shingon Buddhist temple in Japan to enable participants to take part in a simple economic task designed to measure trust. Upon completing our survey, participants were escorted to the booth to collect a small monetary reward for taking part. Before entering, they were instructed to select one of two envelopes: the first had included a set amount of money (300 Yen) and the second an amount divided by another attendee at the festival which could range from (0-1000 Yen). The rationale for the task is that if the participant trusts that the other festival attendee was fair then they should expect them to have split the 1000 Yen award evenly, meaning that there should be 500 Yen in the envelope (the other attendee took the remainder for themselves) and that it is therefore the more attractive choice. Alternatively, if the participant suspects that the other attendee would have been greedy and took more than 700 Yen for themselves, then they should select the other guaranteed amount envelope which they know contains 300 Yen. The image above could easily be presented in an article as evidence that we built a semi-controlled, private, and somewhat sterile environment during a busy firewalking festival. But that would be misleading. For a start, it would ignore that directly facing the boxes was the following image: Not exactly a neutral environment, especially with the claims made about eye-spots and prosociality. However, that’s not all. Here’s another shot of the outside of the ‘booth’, which you might note contains a rather prominent picture of the Dalai Lama, a figure prominently associated with moral behaviour. These are the kind of environmental details which are very difficult to avoid when collecting data in a Buddhist temple, but they could easily be omitted from a journal article. What could also be omitted is that it became clear during data collection, based on what many respondents said when inside/leaving the booth, that they were trying to select the envelope with the lowest amount to be more generous or not appear greedy. Following the logic of the trust task, such a response technically indicates the participant has less trust in other festival attendees, but this was clearly not the motivating factor for these participants. And this is a serious problem because the trust task protocol only works if it is reasonable to expect that people are profit maximising, but this did not appear to be a valid expectation within the surrounding religious context. In addition to the issue of motivation, there was also a significant problem with comprehension. We had designed and piloted a trust task that we thought would be very simple to understand and we were collecting data in Japan, where there is a high standard of education amongst the general population. However, even with detailed written and verbal instructions, the task proved to be very confusing, with several participants exiting the booth to ask the experimenter which envelope to choose or inviting friends to join them in the private area. The point here is not to denigrate our participants, but to emphasise that even in a country with a literate, highly educated population, a simple economic behavioural task can prove very challenging to implement. For researchers working with isolated tribal communities that lack experience with currency, who rely on local translators, such issues are likely to be magnified greatly. See, for instance, the dismay of the economist Andreas Ortmann (2005) about the various ‘idiosyncrasies’ in framing, participant recruitment, and experiment instruction reported in Henrich et al. (2001). Ultimately, we did not make use of the trust task data because of the myriad of methodological issues. However, this decision itself also represents the exercise of a potentially problematic researcher degree of freedom. The non-reporting of outcomes and selection of only ‘successful’ results can be a serious problem and result in inaccurate biases seeping into the research literature. Selective reporting appears to be a significant factor in what has come to be known as the ‘replication crisis’ in psychology and other disciplines. The solution here lies both in field site researchers being honest about limitations (we intend to report the failure of the task in the final paper) and in adopting more contemporary research standards, including: the pre-registering of studies and outcomes and providing open access to data for other researchers to explore. While the above might sound negative, we would like to end our response by reiterating that we are in full agreement with both Wilson and Whitehouse’ arguments in favour of the importance of field site research and that an evolutionary perspective can serve to unite future research efforts. We believe that such an approach, if conducted with appropriate care can provide a wealth of new insights and even potentially serve as a bridge to bring together disparate disciplines. But to achieve this it will be essential to both reappraise existing social science research- regardless of its evolutionary underpinnings, and take due consideration of the methodological and ethical issues we raise above. References Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men (pp. 177–190). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie. Atkinson, Q.D. & Whitehouse, H., 2011. The Cultural Morphospace of Ritual Form: Examining modes of religiosity cross-culturally. Evolution and Human Behavior, 32(1), pp.50–62. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Oxford, England: Prentice-Hall. Conradt, L., & List, C. (2009). Group decisions in humans and animals: a survey. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 364(1518), 719–42. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human relations, 7(2), 117-140. Flicker, S., Travers, R., Guta, A., McDonald, S., & Meagher, A. (2007). Ethical dilemmas in community-based participatory research: Recommendations for institutional review boards. Journal of Urban Health84(4), 478-493. Gelfand, M. J., et al. (2011). Differences between tight and loose cultures: A 33-nation study. Science, 332(6033), 1100-1104. Gray, R. D., & Atkinson, Q. D. (2003). Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin. Nature, 426(6965), 435-439. Henrich, J., Boyd, R., Bowles, S., Camerer, C., Fehr, E., Gintis, H., & McElreath, R. (2001). In search of homo economicus: behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. The American Economic Review91(2), 73-78. Henrich, J. et al., 2006. Costly punishment across human societies. Science, 312(5781), pp.1767– 70. Kameda, T., Wisdom, T., Toyokawa, W., & Inukai, K. (2012). Is consensus-seeking unique to humans? A selective review of animal group decision-making and its implications for (human) social psychology. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(5), 673-689. List, C. (2004). Democracy in animal groups: a political science perspective. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 19(4), 168-169. List, C., Elsholtz, C., & Seeley, T. D. (2009). Independence and interdependence in collective decision making: an agent-based model of nest-site choice by honeybee swarms. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 364(1518), 755-762. Mesoudi, A. (2009). How cultural evolutionary theory can inform social psychology and vice versa. Psychological review, 116(4), 929. O'Brien, M. J., Darwent, J., & Lyman, R. L. (2001). Cladistics is useful for reconstructing archaeological phylogenies: Palaeoindian points from the southeastern United States. Journal of Archaeological Science, 28(10), 1115-1136. Ortmann, A. (2005). Field experiments in economics: Some methodological caveats. Field experiments in economics. Elsevier JAI, Amsterdam, 51-70. Sumpter, D. J., & Pratt, S. C. (2009). Quorum responses and consensus decision making. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 364(1518), 743-753. Talhelm, T., Zhang, X., Oishi, S., Shimin, C., Duan, D., Lan, X., & Kitayama, S. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(6184), 603-608. Watts, J., Sheehan, O., Atkinson, Q. D., Bulbulia, J., & Gray, R. D. (2016). Ritual human sacrifice promoted and sustained the evolution of stratified societies. Nature, 532(7598), 228-231. Wolf, M., Kurvers, R. H., Ward, A. J., Krause, S., & Krause, J. (2013). Accurate decisions in an uncertain world: collective cognition increases true positives while decreasing false positives. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 280(1756), 20122777. [post_title] => Developing the Field Site Concept for the Study of Cultural Evolution: The Promise and the Perils [post_excerpt] => Kavanagh and Nakawake do not provide an in-depth critical review of the target articles but instead offer, first, a complementary recommendation and, second, an important note of caution concerning ‘field site’ research. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => developing-the-field-site-concept-for-the-study-of-cultural-evolution-the-promise-and-the-perils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-28 14:57:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-28 19:57:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://evolution-institute.org/?post_type=commentary&p=120005936 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => commentary [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 120005934 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2016-12-27 13:46:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-27 18:46:24 [post_content] =>   The essays by Wilson and Whitehouse introduce an important topic that may lay the groundwork for new approaches to the study of cultural evolution: the development of field sites specifically for investigating cultural evolution. Wilson’s vision for such field sites is modeled on those used in evolutionary biology and ecology—specific locations of biological diversity that are studied over time by multiple researchers. Whitehouse looks toward a slightly different model, one more common in anthropology and psychology, in which multiple investigators located in different sites examine cross-cultural variation and change in coordination. Both are valuable models. Wilson’s site-specific model provides a diachronic perspective by examining stability and change in one location over multiple time periods, but is limited in the range of variation that can be observed from this one site. Whitehouse’s approach provides a broad view of variation, but does not provide the time depth that a site-specific approach does. An obvious thing to do is to combine these two—to have a range of focal sites with good temporal depth that can be compared to one another, and, as Wilson points out, this is precisely were ecology is heading. How might we create field sites with both time depth and broad regional coverage? One model is provided by Seshat, which is attempting to use historical and archaeological data from 30 specific locations to examine cultural stability and change over long periods of time (Turchin et al. 2015). This is a model that has already been used in archaeology and history, and by combining the two Seshat will provide an extremely useful resource for the study of cultural evolution. However, Seshat is focused on gathering and coordinating extant data, not on collecting new data. How might we create a field site concept for cultural evolution that provides depth and breadth but that is based on new data? Looking back a century (actually a bit more—to 1896) Franz Boas, in his widely-misread but seminal work on “The Limitations of the Comparative Method in Anthropology”, suggests that in order to understand general “laws” of cultural development anthropology “must not confine itself to comparing [cultures], but wherever such is feasible it must compare processes of growth, and these can be discovered by means of studies of the cultures of small geographical areas.”(p.907-908). What Boas suggested were regional studies of cultural evolution (“development” he called it, as “evolution” implied materialist theories of progress at the time), and he attempted such a study on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, Vancouver Island did not (and still does not) have a fully explored archaeological record, so time depth is only partially available, even though the historical and ethnographic records are exceptionally rich. Other areas of the world, for example the Southwestern United States and Mesoamerica, have rich ethnographic, historical, archaeological records that could be harvested to create the basis of a regional field site. Those regions have extant indigenous populations as well, and they might serve as informants for new investigations such as those discussed by Whitehouse. What I suggest as a field site for the study of cultural evolution, then, is really a “field region” with multiple sites in a small area that provides both time depth and cultural variation. Perhaps a city like Binghamton, with a diverse population in a relatively small area, is an example of a “field region”. But Binghamton does not have the time depth that I think is necessary for a true cultural evolution field site (although as an archaeologist my view of time depth is probably much greater than either Wilson’s or Whitehouse’s). So, while I agree that the idea of a field site for cultural evolution is an excellent one, I think we need more discussion to determine exactly what such a field site would look like. Would it be a location, a region, or a group of spatially dispersed sites? What time depth would be desired? What degree of cultural variation would the site need to encompass? These are all answerable questions, and I hope that in time we will address them in order to initiate a serious effort to develop one or more cultural evolution field sites. Literature Cited 1. Boas, Franz. 1896. The Limitations of the Comparative Method in Anthropology. Science 4 (18 DEC): 901-908. 2. Turchin, Peter et al. 2015. Seshat: The Global History Databank. Cliodynamics 6:77-107. Image: Frances Densmore recording Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief for the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1916. [post_title] => On Field Sites for the Study of Cultural Evolution [post_excerpt] => How might we create a field site concept for cultural evolution that provides depth and breadth but that is based on new data? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => on-field-sites-for-the-study-of-cultural-evolution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-27 13:46:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-27 18:46:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://evolution-institute.org/?post_type=commentary&p=120005934 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => commentary [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 120005900 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2016-12-21 08:00:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-21 13:00:20 [post_content] => Many Americans were shocked at Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election but those with graduate degrees in the social sciences and humanities were among the most mystified. These men and women may be paid a good salary to profess their knowledge and understanding of humans and their societies, but this expertise didn’t allow them to predict that someone like Trump could capture the vote of so many of their fellow Americans. The 2016 election tightened the grip that conservatives have on US politics and this could pose a severe threat to the funding of scholarship in the social sciences and humanities in the country. But even though there is much discussion of the election result among these scholars, there have been few scholarly attempts to understand the appeal of the conservative message to so many Americans or why Trump’s rendering of it was particularly appealing. The reasons for the Trump victory that have been proffered so far are mostly the opinions of pundits rather than scholars. Putting aside for a moment the outrage over lies, fake news, and interference from Russians, they are same tired old economic explanations. It’s claimed that Trump voters feel economically insecure, dissatisfied, envious, or just plain neglected. That phrase: “It’s the economy, stupid”, still resonates. We’re in the habit of looking at the economy to find post hoc explanations of people’s behavior and people themselves are inclined to point to the economy to justify their opinions and actions. But if we want a fuller explanation of the appeal of conservatism, isn’t it time we tried exploring other approaches? What does Darwin have to offer? Hearing the name “Darwin” may cause many readers to anticipate a story of evolved genes that cause some people think in more conservative ways. Some evidence does suggest a very weak link between one gene and political affiliation1 but this isn’t our story. Darwin’s theories can be applied to more than the evolution of genes. In fact, Darwin knew nothing about genes. Biologists didn’t begin to understand genetic inheritance until some years after Darwin’s death. What Darwin did (in his book On the Origin of Species published in 1859) was to provide a theory that made sense of patterns in the variation of living organisms. His theory, which he summarized as “descent with modification” has proved very successful in explaining change and diversity in the genes of populations. But there’s no reason that the same basic theory can’t help to explain patterns ibn n cultural variation.2 Just as genes are passed from parent to child, cultural information passes between people as they interact. Children don’t “inherit” the beliefs of their parents because we can get our cultural information from many other people as well. We can also modify our beliefs based on our experiences and often pass on these personalized beliefs rather than exact copies of what we acquired from others. Nevertheless, most of what we “know” is based on what we have “inherited” from others. Culture has been evolving very rapidly in almost all human populations for several generations and so it’s reasonable to assume that Darwin’s theory can provide insight into the patterns of cultural variation that have emerged from this evolutionary process. Overall, life for humans has improved. All over the world, people are healthier and more prosperous than they were a century ago. But the distribution of the benefits has been patchy and there have also been costs. Higher tech weaponry has made killing easier. Old ways of living and making a living have become impossible. These costs have also been unevenly distributed. A Darwinian explanation of cultural change must look at changes in the pattern of social interaction. It’s through these interactions that we inherit our cultural information. Each one can result in the cultural equivalent of “mating”, with information passing from one mind to the other. No offspring is conceived as a result of this transfer, but the mind of one or both of the participants comes out of the experience subtly altered. “The Family” Patterns of social interaction have profoundly changed in almost all human populations during the last 300 years. For almost all of human history and pre-history, going back maybe two million years, “The Family” was the main social institution organizing people’s lives.3 Human biology makes it essential that our young be raised in families. This isn’t the case for the species closest to us on the evolutionary tree. Like most mammals, chimp, bonobo, gorilla and orangutan females can successfully raise their young without help. It’s likely that this started to change in the human lineage as our ancestors began to evolve larger brains. In order to grow their large brain, our babies have to be born large but helpless. Once born, they grow very slowly and require a regular supply of energy-rich nutritious food. A human can only survive to adulthood if its mother receives a considerable amount of help – help from several people, not just the baby’s father.4 Families are child-rearing teams. Not all team members do a lot of hands-on childcare but all members are expected to play a role, perhaps by helping to gain resources or by providing protection, advice or useful connections. Over the years our ancestors evolved a wide variety of ways to organize these teams. Families vary enormously in size, complexity, and behavior. But the basic function of the family is always the same – or at least it was until recently. Families were a bit like primitive living organisms. Their members worked together to keep their family going, acquiring resources from the environment to maintain themselves and create a new generation of members. As brain size increased in the human lineage, the amount and quality of the help mothers received also had to increase. The pattern of growth and development that produced large-brained humans co-evolved with the pattern of “team parenting” behavior that supported this growth and development. This could not have been simple co-evolution of genes.5,6 Our genetic inheritance may be responsible for the emotional foundation of human family behavior, helping to create and maintain bonds between family members, but we clearly don’t have genes that program us to either be good mothers or to provide appropriate help to mothers. We learn how to be family members as we grow up in a family. Our early experience of receiving and giving care in a family influences how we behave for the rest of our lives. The environment in which we learn about the world and how to survive in it is part of our family inheritance. The influence it has on our behavior is at least as important as our genetic inheritance. Over thousands of generations in the distant past, the genetic changes associated with the increase in human brain size evolved in concert with the cultural changes necessary to support young with resource-hungry brains. Families which were most successful in raising young were those that maintained beliefs, rules, customs and habits which kept a group of people working together as an efficient child-raising team. Those which were less successful died out. It was natural selection, between families. Information (cultural information and genetic information) associated with the most efficient conversion of resources into offspring was most likely to be passed on to the next generation. The origins of conservatism A brief consideration of the beliefs, rules, customs and habits consistent with the efficient conversion of resources into offspring yields a list that nowadays typifies “extreme conservatism.” The most successful families would have members who saw it as natural that: 1. The interests of the family must come first. − Members must try not to even think about what might be in their own personal interests. “Obey and respect your elders” is a good general rule. 2. It must always be assumed that people will put the interests of their family first. − It, therefore, doesn’t make sense to trust a friend as much as a family member and non-family members will never see you as completely trustworthy. 3. Strangers who act friendly or generous are particularly untrustworthy. − Why would anyone do this? They are insulting your intelligence. 4. Children are a blessing and should behave like blessings. − They should be eager to perform as much work as their age and skill level allows, including the care, supervision, and correction of younger children. 5. Women and girls should want to be mothers and perform work compatible with motherhood and childcare. − The future of the family depends on having reproductive age females willing to endure the discomfort and risks of pregnancy and childbirth. They should not want to waste their time doing things that men and boys can do. 6. Sexual behavior likely to result in pregnancy must be controlled by the family so that births are controlled. − A baby can’t survive unless it’s born within a team that is able and willing to raise it. Producing babies that can’t be raised is upsetting and wasteful. 7. Mating outside one’s immediate family is necessary but ideally, a match can be arranged between members of related families or family friends. − This makes it more likely that relatives of the bride and groom can agree and work together providing help to the children that result from their marriage. Maintaining a set of cultural traits that caused people to behave in accordance with these basic rules not only enabled a family to successfully compete against other families; it also made it likely that individual members of the family enjoyed greater genetic “fitness” than members of families which were less efficiently turning resources into offspring. Future generations included more genes from members of efficient families. Historical and anthropological studies suggest that, despite vast cultural variation, respect for elders, primacy of family, xenophobia, child labor, gender division of labor, high birth rates, and arranged marriages were commonly considered to be “normal” in most parts of Europe until the 18th or 19th century and in most non-European countries until the 20th century.7 Of course, families had “black sheep”. There was disobedience, unfairness, jealously, and occasional cuckoldry.8 And, in the places and times that are of most interest to historians, normal behavior was often suspended. In cities and during wartime, prostitution, venereal disease, destitute orphans and all manner of sin and vice could be found. But most of our ancestors were born, grew up and raised their children well away from cities and wars. The majority of them were members of the more efficient childcare teams, thriving in the good times and surviving the bad. Natural selection favored behaviors that added to the efficiency of those teams and the genetic and cultural traits associated with these behaviors. A Darwinian view of “modernization” In the last few centuries, family-promoting cultural traits began to weaken and this has revolutionized the way humans live. Most humans alive today don’t belong to teams that efficiently turn resources into offspring. Even though we’re more prosperous than our ancestors, we produce very few offspring. Fertility is very low or falling rapidly in almost all human populations. And it isn’t just norms about family size that have changed; the whole suite of the family-promoting cultural traits has been affected. The effect has been largest in Western populations. Far from seeing elders as worthy of respect, we Westerners often see them as time-expired, an awkward burden. We see our offspring as a responsibility rather than a blessing. Instead of being taught that they have a duty to contribute to their family, Western children are urged to figure out what will make them happy in life and to work for that. We can’t imagine giving an eight-year-old the responsibility of caring for a three-year-old and believe child labor to be immoral. The idea of parents being allowed to control their children’s choice of marriage partner also appalls us. For Westerners, marriages are about adults seeking happiness. We long ago ceased to see marriage as a partnership for the raising of children. Why did these cultural changes happen? A superficial look might suggest that it was the result of rational reasoning. Individuals might have simply seen that maintaining a strong family was no longer a practical necessity and so they changed their minds about how to behave. But the idea of rational reasoning being involved seems laughable given the emotion generated by discussion of changes in “family values”. It couldn’t have been that that simple. The family-promoting culture of our ancestors was not the work of ancient social engineers. It was the product of many generations of gene-culture co-evolution. When our forebears acquired beliefs, rules, customs and habits which caused them to be hard working members of an efficient child-rearing team, it was not because they judged these cultural traits to be of practical value. They began to acquire them when they were too young to be capable of rational thought. We humans learn how to behave by observing and experiencing the people around us and by feeling the consequences of our own actions. Also, the weakening of the family-promoting cultural traits didn’t happen all at once, as one would expect if it was simply the reasoned abandonment of outmoded ideas. The weakening has been an evolutionary process. For example, the grandmother of one of us (Lesley), born in England in the early 20th century, was less assiduously devoted to the interests of the family than her own mother. She only produced two children, even though she had grown up in a family of five surviving children. Nevertheless, many of the family-promoting traits were strong in her. By today’s standards, she was very “conservative”. Her son became an engineer but she expected her daughter (Lesley’s mother) to work as a secretary and to quit working as soon as she married. Her mother complied. Our training in Darwin’s theory of evolutionary change suggests that the gradual weakening of family promoting traits can be thought of as the accumulation of mutations in the cultural information that had previously encouraged people to devote their lives to the interests of their family. By 1800, women in some parts of France were already choosing to limit the number of children they had,9 suggesting that they no longer possessed a complete set of fulling functioning family-promoting cultural variants. Over the next few generations, more and more Europeans failed to inherit the idea that children were a blessing. By the early 20th century, fertility was falling rapidly in most European populations, including populations descended from people who had migrated from Europe to other continents. At the same time, new mutations were appearing in the cultural information that Europeans were inheriting. By 1900, many new social institutions were organizing the lives of Europeans and the role of The Family was much diminished.10 And yet, judging by the writing of the time, including diaries, letters, and memoirs,11 most Europeans retained the belief that it was their duty to respect those in authority and put the interests of the larger group ahead of their own interests. In many people’s minds, the concept of “my family” had been partly replaced with the larger social groups they felt they belonged to, such as “my nation”, “my church” and “my race”. This was a time of intense nationalism, religious fervor, and racism in Europe. Between 1914 and 1918 millions of Europeans dutifully laid down their lives to further what their leaders told them were the interests of their nation. The evolution of Western culture has continued steadily over the last 100 years but remnants of family promoting beliefs are still retained. For example, we still consider it “natural” that wealthier and better-connected families will strive to obtain superior schools and more lenient justice for their children. The weakening of the family promoting cultural traits coincides very closely with the change in the pattern of social interaction and the emergence of other social institutions to take over the role of the family. Both happened first in Europe. In 18th century Europe, social, technological and economic change began to make it both possible and advantageous for people to form strong social connections outside the family. Travel became easier and more and more families found that their young people could gain a better living if they left home and joined a workforce. As more people learned to read, more books, pamphlets, and newspapers became available to satisfy their curiosity about life outside their local communities. Within a few generations, non-European populations also started to experience widening social interaction and increased exposure to media. Such changes transform the flow of cultural ideas. People gain wider social identities. In towns, clubs, religious congregations, political parties, unions and secret societies provide lonely newcomers with new comrades and brethren. Most people continue to see themselves as members of a family living within a local community but they also began to identify themselves as members of a workforce, a social class, an ethnic group, a religion or a nation.12 As a result, the constant trickle of information from family members re-enforcing ideas of duty to family becomes diluted by other information streams. There’s no reason to believe that this will instantly wipe out the beliefs, rules, customs and habits that had been passed down the generations for thousands of years. But there is every reason to believe that the dilution of the message will make it less likely that populations will maintain complete and accurate versions of the cultural traits that had kept their forebears loyal to the interests of their families. Before long, the trickle of information from family members starts to alter and become less coherent. An easily observed effect of this is a sharp reduction in the number of children people have. And as time goes on, more and more “mutations” appear in the family-promoting cultural traits. Loyalty to family becomes loyalty to the fatherland, the motherland, the King, “God, the Father” etc. Red states, blue states and failed states Patterns of cultural variation are the result of many influences but explanations of these influences are of two types. They can be historical, such as Fischer’s observation that regional voting patterns in the United States can be tied to the point of origin in the British Isles of people who settled in the region in previous centuries.13 Or they can be environmental, such as Inglehart’s observation that what he calls the “political style” of a group of people can be tied to the level of security in the environment in which they were socialized.14 No explanation can be the whole story and new ideas are not necessarily a threat to old ones. A Darwinian view of modernization suggests another way that a population’s history can influence its culture. The amount of time that has passed since the widening of social interaction is revealed to be potentially important in explaining the pattern of cultural differences. The more time that has passed, the more changes are likely to have accumulated in the population’s family-promoting cultural traits. This predicts that, because the widening of social interactions happened first in Europe, the feeling of family obligation will be stronger in non-Western populations. This has been observed, even in among non-Western immigrants to Western countries.15 Populations which began to experience widening social interactions most recently, such as those in many parts of Africa and the Middle East, appear extremely conservative to Westerners. Elders are still honored and marriages are still arranged. Sexual behavior is kept under strict social control and girls are brought up differently from their brothers. People in these populations are so loyal to family, tribe, and religion that they seem unable to see where their own individual best interests lie. Westerners find these frustrating places to do business, distribute aid, or broker peace deals. Modern social institutions premised on individual autonomy cannot work effectively if feelings of family loyalty are strong. A Darwinian approach also suggests explanations for cultural differences between sub-populations within a country such as the United States. Immigrants to Western countries from populations of non-European descent are likely to be more conservative than the native population. If they integrate well, the differences are much reduced in their children but they don’t always integrate well. In places where these immigrants come to make a large proportion of the population, they may influence Westerners in their communities to become more conservative. The observation that the older people in a population tend to be more conservative can be explained by the fact that they have lived during an earlier time in the modernization process and experienced interaction with people who lived during an even earlier time. In Western populations, their conservatism may not explicitly promote the family because it consists of only remnants of the family promoting cultural traits. These remnants can generate a range beliefs and feelings. They may cause people to feel that sexual behavior needs to be kept within strict bounds, that youngsters should respect authority and that everyone should love their country. It’s easy to see how such feelings could make people suspicious of foreign-seeming “experts” claiming that their pronouncements are supported by incomprehensible evidence. And it’s easy to see how such feelings could make people inclined to give unexamined credence to the statements people who look, sound and behave like their friends and countrymen. A Darwinian approach suggests that people who, by choice or accident, do not live in urban areas and did not attend college, are likely to be more conservative. They have been exposed to a narrower range of social interactions. Their parents and grandparents may have also been isolated from the variety of social interactions that are available to more cosmopolitan Westerners. Extreme examples of rural isolation arresting modernization can be seen in the Old Order Anabaptist communities that have spread through rural areas of the United States and Canada.16 These are descended from European immigrants of strict Protestant sects – Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of these communities chose to continue to live “simply” in small family-based communities, avoiding education beyond age 13, friendships with outsiders and exposure to non-permitted books and most modern media. By and large, these communities maintain a complete and functioning set of family-promoting cultural traits and have very high fertility. Members of the Old Order Anabaptist communities keep themselves so separate that they rarely vote. But the rural and suburban Americans, whose isolation is less extreme, generally choose to vote Republican and in 2016 the vast majority voted for Donald Trump. Trump’s behavior may not be consistent with some people’s view of “family values” but there are several reasons why conservative Americans might find him appealing. Now in his eighth decade, he has acquired the air of a patriarch. Family is clearly is important to him and his five children. And, while the liberals and the US constitution urge people to greater inclusiveness, Trump’s beliefs are more consistent with the remnant of the family promoting idea which insists that we need to put “our own” first. He and his daughter, Ivanka, have explicitly stated that once he is president, “his own” will include all law-abiding American citizens. Some of his statements have implied that “his own” especially includes Americans who, like himself, are of European and Christian descent. Such statements appeal to the nationalism and ethnocentrism strongly felt by many living in rural areas. The Darwinian approach makes no specific predictions about African American and Native American populations. They have shared a continent with people of European descent for many generations and yet continue to be seen as separate. This is more a matter of identity than culture, however. Like European Americans, those with African and Native ancestry are modern and, like Europeans, they vary in the extent to which they retain remnants the family-promoting cultural traits of their forebears. Is this the end of “modernization”? There is reason to look back at the cultural changes of the last couple of centuries with feelings of satisfaction. For most of our history and pre-history human populations were divided up into myriad competing families, each trying to survive and grow in a world of limited resources. This is often seen as a trap – the Malthusian Trap that kept our ancestors living to the limits of their means and prevented them seeing the benefits of forming wider social partnerships and pursuing other goals. It was in Europe that humans first broke out of this trap by gradually abandoning the beliefs and habits associated with efficiently turning resources into offspring. They stopped believing that they should accept as many children as fate (or God) would give them. This change occurred decades before the development of modern contraceptive technology but couples still large succeeded in limiting the number of children they had. And, instead of bringing these children up to simply be good family members, they prepared them to pursue the other goals the modern world was beginning to offer.17 The pursuit of other goals has made our lives far richer. The coming together of more and more minds has brought an explosion of innovation, not just technological innovation but new ideas about how it is possible to live and behave. It’s been a wild ride, terrifying from time to time and more uncomfortable for some than for others. Is it now over? It appears that large numbers of Westerners want to secure their borders and exchange ideas only within the safety of their Facebook communities. Many members of non-Western populations are striving and sometimes fighting to stop or reverse the cultural changes that modernization is bringing to their people. This is bound to disappoint members of academic and business elites who can more clearly see the benefits which emerge from interaction and trade between peoples and nations. If the Darwinian mechanism described here has merit, the cultural changes of modernization will continue. They’re part of an evolutionary process triggered by changes in the pattern of social interaction that occurred several generations ago. But as Westerners interact with people at an earlier point in this process, their modernization may slow down. Because most humans live in the moment, Westerners perceive a great moral divide between themselves and the peoples in the Middle East and African who have begun to modernize recently. But this Darwinian view suggests that what seems to be a great divide is simply the result of populations being at different points in the process of cultural change. The same moral divide would exist between ourselves and our own great-grandparents if we could meet them in their youth when they were giving voice to the racism, sexism, homophobia and bellicosity which caused so much bloodshed and misery in the 20th century. The long term future for modernization is very uncertain. Even though the fertility of the human population is falling rapidly, it continues to grow because in many populations fertility was still high 20 to 40 years ago. The children born then are now having their own children. They may be choosing to have far fewer children than their parents did but because there are so many people of reproductive age, the birth rate still outstrips the death rate in most populations. Humans are living longer and the mean age of the population is rising, bringing additional problems. But more problematic is the increasing rate at which we are using resources and creating waste. It’s possible that we will succeed in culturally evolving institutions or technology that will help us to continue to prosper. Success is more likely if we continue to make new links between peoples so we can tackle problems together. And this will be more likely if we can learn to be less judgmental of people who happen to be at different stages of the modernization process. We may feel that we want to argue and fight in hopes of changing views but if the understanding provided by Darwinian theory has merit, their view will change. It will just take time. And in the meantime, the political struggle between more and less modern people seems fated to continue. Our differences are more a matter of emotional commitment than reason. But even in the midst of a fight, wisdom lies in trying to understand and respect one's “enemies”. Blind hatred or contempt makes the fighting worse and the prospects of peace more distant. 1. J. E. Settle, C. T. Dawes, N. A. Christakis, J. H. Fowler, Friendships moderate an association between a dopamine gene variant and political ideology. The Journal of Politics 72, 1189 (2010). 2. A. Whiten, R. A. Hinde, K. N. Laland, C. B. Stringer, Culture evolves. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B) 366, 938 (2011). 3. K. Davis, Kingsley Davis on reproductive institutions and the pressure for population. Population and Development Review 23, 611 (1937/1997). 4. S. B. Hrdy, Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2009). 5. R. Boyd, P. J. Richerson, J. Henrich, The Cultural Niche. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, 10918 (2011). 6. L. Newson, in Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective, K. Clancy, K. Hinde, J. Rutherford, Eds. (Springer New York, 2013). 7. C. Antweiler, Our Common Denominator: Human universals revisited. (Berghahn, New York, 2016). 8. M. Larmuseau et al., Low historical rates of cuckoldry in a Western European human population traced by Y-chromosome and genealogical data. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 280, 20132400 (2013). 9. J.-B. Moheau, Jean-Baptiste Moheau on the moral causes of diminished fertility. Population and Development Review 26, 821 (2000). 10. K. Davis, Reproductive institutions and the pressure for population. Sociological Review 7, 289 (1937). 11. V. Brittan, Testament of Youth. (Victor Gollanca, London, 1933). 12. B. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (Verso, London, 1992). 13. D. H. Fischer, Albion's seed: four British folkways in America. America, a cultural history ; v. 1. (Oxford University Press, New York, 1989), pp. xxi, 946. 14. R. Inglehart, The Silent Revolution: Changing values and political styles among Western publics. (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1977). 15. A. J. Fuligni, V. Tseng, M. Lam, Attitudes toward family obligations among American adolescents with Asian, Latin American, and European backgrounds. Child development 70, 1030 (1999). 16. C. E. Hurst, D. L. McConnell, An Amish paradox: Diversity and change in the world's largest Amish community. (JHU Press, 2010). 17. A. J. Coale, in The Decline of Fertility in Europe, A. J. Coale, S. C. Watkins, Eds. (Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1986), pp. xxii, 484, [12] folded leaves of plates. [post_title] => Darwin Applied to Trump: Can Evolutionary Theory Help Us Understand the Appeal of Donald Trump? [post_excerpt] => A Darwinian approach suggests that people who, by choice or accident, do not live in urban areas and did not attend college, are likely to be more conservative. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => darwin-applied-to-trump-can-evolutionary-theory-help-us-understand-the-appeal-of-donald-trump [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-18 10:22:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-18 15:22:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://evolution-institute.org/?post_type=focus-article&p=120005900 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => focus-article [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 21 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 7 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 120005971 [post_author] => 35 [post_date] => 2017-01-02 07:15:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-02 12:15:20 [post_content] => In the essays presented by Whitehouse and Wilson, both authors present an account on developing field sites for studying cultural evolution. The target essays are presented from the viewpoints of an evolutionary biologist (David Sloan Wilson) and an anthropologist (Harvey Whitehouse). While I am generally supportive of their proposition, there are also logistical concerns with maintaining field sites that should be discussed. This commentary is presented from the viewpoint of a cognitive anthropologist and a recent doctoral graduate who, despite a relatively short career, has conducted her own research at multiple field sites. There is a particular point, stressed by Whitehouse, which I believe should be a focus of future research projects. Namely, evolutionary approaches should be the theoretical foundation for the investigations at field sites such as those described by Whitehouse and Wilson. Whitehouse has noted that the differences between Psychology (EP) and Evolutionary Theories of Culture (ETC) may not be that great. This is not a new stance, as he has argued for it before (Whitehouse, 2004). Synthesizing the different evolutionary approaches to culture should be a target for projects such as those outlined in the target articles. This is because finding a theoretical framework that is appropriate for investigating the wide variety of cultures targeted by projects such as AnthroLab must walk a fine line between generalizability and contextual sensitivity. However, as outlined here and elsewhere, it has been noted that both EP and ETC have their merits in helping to develop new hypotheses for research. Although many question the utility of ETC as anything more than an analogy to biological evolution (Knudt, 2015), the general focus of cultural evolution on information that is socially learned provides a focus to what it is about human social groups that make them unique. This focus on unique socially learned behaviours can be combined with evolutionary psychology, which posits that human minds evolved in order to process such social information. By assuming that all naturally developed human minds share a suite of cognitive mechanisms which evolved to process different information—including socially transmitted information (a point stressed in earlier writing on evolutionary psychology, e.g. Tooby & Cosmides, 1992, p. 24)—we can use evolutionary theory as a foundation for the study of culture. I find the proposition of synthesizing EP and ETC quite persuasive, as I have embraced it in my own research. During my most recent fieldwork, I studied how the development of executive function and the ability to delay gratification in children can be manipulated by adopting a ritual stance or instrumental stance (Rybanska, McKay, Jong, & Whitehouse, in press). Briefly, individuals adopt an instrumental stance towards learning instrumental skills, assuming that the modelled actions are performed in the service of a specific concrete goal in accordance with normal expectations about physical causation (e.g. washing hands). On the other hand, individuals adopt a ritual stance towards learning conventional, ritualised behaviours, i.e. actions are executed in a certain way simply because it is demanded by a convention, with no clear links between actions and goals (e.g. ritual washing). These different ways of approaching actions (as instrumental or ritual) should have effects on our cognitive mechanisms. More specifically, because a ritual stance demands close attention to actions and the necessity to perform these actions correctly, it puts greater demands on executive function. This generated the hypothesis that performing actions that promoted the adoption of a ritual stance—as opposed to an instrumental stance—should have positive effects on executive function. I took this hypothesis to not one, but two field sites: Slovakia and Vanuatu. What I found was that adopting a ritual stance increased executive function and the ability to delay gratification in both field sites, and there were no significant differences between the two (Rybanska, et al., in press). In this way, one can argue that the cognitive underpinnings of executive function, the ability to delay gratification, and even those that govern the adoption of ritual or instrumental stances are likely evolved psychological mechanisms that recur cross-culturally and develop at similar points in childhood. However, it does not take a keen eye to see that there are vast differences in the rituals performed in Vanuatu and Slovakia. While most rituals in Slovakia would be familiar to anyone with basic knowledge of Central European cultures, rituals in Vanuatu can sometimes involve rare, dangerous rituals, such as land diving, where men jump from a wooden tower with only vines tied around their ankles. At the same time, some communities in Vanuatu have been exposed to European missionary efforts, and have adopted many of their ritual practices. The historical contexts that outline the shifts from one form of ritual to another can be interpreted through the lens of cultural evolution, as noted by both Whitehouse and Wilson. Although as a cognitive anthropologist I greatly appreciate both Wilson and Whitehouse stressing the importance of fieldwork, as a researcher  who operated in multiple field locations in both Europe and the South Pacific I would like to stress a logistical issue that cannot be overlooked; namely, the  issue of funding. While Wilson suggests that funding is not of utmost importance, the idea that this sort of research can be sustained at a university without funding is unrealistic. Students, particularly graduate students—who are producing much of the work in the field—cannot sustain themselves, pay the fees requested by universities, and sustain a field site without additional funding; even paying undergraduates “very affordable wages” is an additional cost not afforded to most researchers out of tenure track. Although Wilson appears to recognize that tenured faculty have certain liberties to pursue such research because they are permanently salaried, such positions are increasingly rare (The American Federation of Teachers, 2003) and currently some universities are employing as many as 70% of their employees on temporary contracts (Chakrabortty & Weale, 2016). Such a system is not conducive to setting up and sustaining field sites in and around universities. Furthermore, setting up and sustaining field sites in multiple remote locations entail additional costs of travel and lodging which are not feasible given the economic circumstances of many researchers who are not beneficiaries of research grants. As such, the sustenance of the field sites may be subject to fits and spurts of research as they fall between cracks in funding cycles. Whitehouse acknowledges that “one of the most obvious barriers to progress is funding”. However, one could add that it is not just securing funding, but the efficient and appropriate allocation of funds to sustain a project as ambitious as that outlined by Whitehouse, which involve costs such as research assistance, travel, lodging, equipment costs, and other research expenses. It is true that some research expenses can be cut down. Using my own research project as an example, I studied the vernacular language of Vanuatu (Bislama) which enabled me to not only conduct all of my research in the field without a translator and thus eliminating significant costs, but also, as an anthropologist I was able to create greater rapport with the local communities. Although this is an imperative for establishing a field site, it is being neglected by many researchers, creating distance and lost meanings between researchers and communities. From an anthropological perspective, creating bonds with the local communities is of high importance, although this is not always the case as some researchers treat local communities as merely their own personal participant pool. Logistical concerns notwithstanding, it is admirable that both Whitehouse and Wilson are emphasizing the importance of fieldwork for the study of culture. It is true that this has been underrated and neglected and many researchers have felt that field work can be replaced by lab experiments with college students. Wilson and Whitehouse are right that in order for us to understand culture, it is in relation to our environments, both biological—as stressed by evolutionary psychology—and social—as stressed by cultural evolution—and that a well validated theoretical perspective can generate insights and explanations that lab experiments alone cannot provide. References Chakrabortty, A., & Weale, S. (2016, November 16). Universities accused of ’ importing Sports Direct model ’ for lecturers ’ pay. The Guardian, p. 2. London. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/16/universities-accused-of-importing-sports-direct-model-for-lecturers-pay Kundt, R. (2015). Contemporary evolutionary theories of culture and the study of religion. London New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Rybanska, V., Mckay, R., Jong, J., & Whitehouse, H. (in press). Rituals improve children's ability to delay gratification. Child Development. The American Federation of Teachers. (2003). The Growth of Full-time Faculty Challenges for the Union (No. 36–0700). Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED497913.pdf Tooby, J & Cosmides, L. (1992). The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In Barkow, J., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (eds.) The Adapted mind : evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. New York: Oxford University Press. Whitehouse, H. (2004). Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. Images copyrighted by Veronika Rybanska. All rights reserved.  [post_title] => Addressing the Field Site Concept: A Cognitive Anthropologist’s View [post_excerpt] => In order for us to understand culture, it is in relation to our environments, both biological—as stressed by evolutionary psychology—and social—as stressed by cultural evolution. A well validated theoretical perspective can generate insights and explanations that lab experiments alone cannot provide. 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