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    ABSTRACT: The neutral model of cultural evolution, which assumes that copying is unbiased, pro- vides precise predictions regarding frequency distributions of traits and the turnover within a popularity-ranked list. Here we study turnover in ranked lists, and identify where the turnover departs from neutral model predictions to detect transmission biases in three different domains: color terms usage in English language 20th century books, popularity of early (1880–1930) and recent (1960–2010) USA baby names, and musical preferences of users of the website Last.fm. To help characterize the type of transmission bias, we modify the neutral model to include a content-based bias and two context-based biases (conformity and anti-conformity). How these modified models match real data helps us to infer, from population scale observations, when cultural transmission is biased, and, to some extent, what kind of biases are operating at individual level.
    Evolution and Human Behavior 05/2014; 35(3). DOI:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.02.003
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate the relationship between characteristics of dog breeds and their popularity between years 1926 and 2005. We consider breed health, longevity, and behavioral qualities such as aggressiveness, trainability, and fearfulness. We show that a breed's overall popularity, fluctuations in popularity, and rates of increase and decrease around popularity peaks show typically no correlation with these breed characteristics. One exception is the finding that more popular breeds tend to suffer from more inherited disorders. Our results support the hypothesis that dog breed popularity has been primarily determined by fashion rather than function.
    PLoS ONE 09/2013; 8(9):e74770. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0074770
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    ABSTRACT: Human behavioral ecology (HBE) is the study of human behavior from an adaptive perspective. It focuses in particular on how human behavior varies with ecological context. Although HBE is a thriving research area, there has not been a major review published in a journal for over a decade, and much has changed in that time. Here, we describe the main features of HBE as a paradigm and review HBE research published since the millennium. We find that the volume of HBE research is growing rapidly, and its composition is changing in terms of topics, study populations, methodology, and disciplinary affiliations of authors. We identify the major strengths of HBE research as its vitality, clear predictions, empirical fruitfulness, broad scope, conceptual coherence, ecological validity, increasing methodological rigor, and topical innovation. Its weaknesses include a relative isolation from the rest of behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology and a somewhat limited current topic base. As HBE continues to grow, there is a major opportunity for it to serve as a bridge between the natural and social sciences and help unify disparate disciplinary approaches to human behavior. HBE also faces a number of open questions, such as how understanding of proximate mechanisms is to be integrated with behavioral ecologys traditional focus on optimal behavioral strategies, and the causes and extent of maladaptive behavior in humans.
    Behavioral Ecology 08/2013; 24(5). DOI:10.1093/beheco/ars222
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    ABSTRACT: In the literature on human mate choice, masculine facial morphology is often proposed to be an intersexual signal of heritable immunocompetence, and hence an important component of men's attractiveness. This hypothesis has received considerable research attention, and is increasingly treated as plausible and well supported. In this article, we propose that the strength of the evidence for the immunocompetence hypothesis is somewhat overstated, and that a number of difficulties have been under-acknowledged. Such difficulties include (1) the tentative nature of the evidence regarding masculinity and disease in humans, (2) the complex and uncertain picture emerging from the animal literature on sexual ornaments and immunity, (3) the absence of consistent, cross-cultural support for the predictions of the immunocompetence hypothesis regarding preferences for masculinized stimuli, and (4) evidence that facial masculinity contributes very little, if anything, to overall attractiveness in real men. Furthermore, alternative explanations for patterns of preferences, in particular the proposal that masculinity is primarily an intrasexual signal, have been neglected. We suggest that immunocompetence perspectives on masculinity, whilst appealing in many ways, should still be regarded as speculative, and that other perspectives-and other traits-should be the subject of greater attention for researchers studying human mate preferences.
    Behavioral Ecology 05/2013; 24(3):579-589. DOI:10.1093/beheco/ars092
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    ABSTRACT: We report here trends in the usage of "mood" words, that is, words carrying emotional content, in 20th century English language books, using the data set provided by Google that includes word frequencies in roughly 4% of all books published up to the year 2008. We find evidence for distinct historical periods of positive and negative moods, underlain by a general decrease in the use of emotion-related words through time. Finally, we show that, in books, American English has become decidedly more "emotional" than British English in the last half-century, as a part of a more general increase of the stylistic divergence between the two variants of English language.
    PLoS ONE 03/2013; 8(3):e59030. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0059030
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    ABSTRACT: Dental wear patterns were recorded on 458 deciduous molar teeth, of 142 subadults from late medieval (AD 1086-1539) England, to explore the relationship between dental wear and burial status of children. A new ordinal method for scoring dental wear stages on the deciduous molar teeth was devised. It was postulated that if a discernible relationship between dental wear stage and burial location could be seen then this could reflect a difference in diet between those receiving higher or lower status burial. The dental wear stages recorded were statistically similar for the dentitions of subadults from different cemeteries, as well as from different burial locations, indicating a comparable diet for the children studied. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 03/2013; 150(3). DOI:10.1002/ajpa.22221
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    ABSTRACT: Human culture has evolved through a series of major tipping points in information storage and communication. The first was the appearance of language, which enabled communication between brains and allowed humans to specialize in what they do and to participate in complex mating games. The second was information storage outside the brain, most obviously expressed in the "Upper Paleolithic Revolution" - the sudden proliferation of cave art, personal adornment, and ritual in Europe some 35,000-45,000 years ago. More recently, this storage has taken the form of writing, mass media, and now the Internet, which is arguably overwhelming humans' ability to discern relevant information. The third tipping point was the appearance of technology capable of accumulating and manipulating vast amounts of information outside humans, thus removing them as bottlenecks to a seemingly self-perpetuating process of knowledge explosion. Important components of any discussion of cultural evolutionary tipping points are tempo and mode, given that the rate of change, as well as the kind of change, in information storage and transmission has not been constant over the previous million years.
    Frontiers in Psychology 12/2012; 3:569. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00569
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    ABSTRACT: Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community well-being and livelihoods. However they may also have unforeseen consequences, in some cases placing further demands on stretched public services. In this paper we use data from a longitudinal study of five Ethiopian villages to investigate the impact of a recent rural development initiative, installing village-level water taps, on rural to urban migration of young adults. Our previous research has identified that tap stands dramatically reduced child mortality, but were also associated with increased fertility. We demonstrate that the installation of taps is associated with increased rural-urban migration of young adults (15-30 years) over a 15 year period (15.5% migrate out, n = 1912 from 1280 rural households). Young adults with access to this rural development intervention had three times the relative risk of migrating to urban centres compared to those without the development. We also identify that family dynamics, specifically sibling competition for limited household resources (e.g. food, heritable land and marriage opportunities), are key to understanding the timing of out-migration. Birth of a younger sibling doubled the odds of out-migration and starting married life reduced it. Rural out-migration appears to be a response to increasing rural resource scarcity, principally competition for agricultural land. Strategies for livelihood diversification include education and off-farm casual wage-labour. However, jobs and services are limited in urban centres, few migrants send large cash remittances back to their families, and most return to their villages within one year without advanced qualifications. One benefit for returning migrants may be through enhanced social prestige and mate-acquisition on return to rural areas. These findings have wide implications for current understanding of the processes which initiate rural-to-urban migration and transitions to low fertility, as well as for the design and implementation of development intervention across the rural and urban developing world.
    PLoS ONE 11/2012; 7(11):e48708. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0048708
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    ABSTRACT: As public and political debates often demonstrate, a substantial disjoint can exist between the findings of science and the impact it has on the public. Using climate-change science as a case example, we reconsider the role of scientists in the information-dissemination process, our hypothesis being that important keywords used in climate science follow "boom and bust" fashion cycles in public usage. Representing this public usage through extraordinary new data on word frequencies in books published up to the year 2008, we show that a classic two-parameter social-diffusion model closely fits the comings and goings of many keywords over generational or longer time scales. We suggest that the fashions of word usage contributes an empirical, possibly regular, correlate to the impact of climate science on society.
    PLoS ONE 11/2012; 7(11):e47966. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0047966
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    ABSTRACT: Paleolithic cave art is an exceptional archive of early human symbolic behavior, but because obtaining reliable dates has been difficult, its chronology is still poorly understood after more than a century of study. We present uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying or underlying art found in 11 caves, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo, Spain. The results demonstrate that the tradition of decorating caves extends back at least to the Early Aurignacian period, with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk, 37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil, and 35.6 thousand years for a claviform-like symbol. These minimum ages reveal either that cave art was a part of the cultural repertoire of the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or that perhaps Neandertals also engaged in painting caves.
    Science 06/2012; 336(6087):1409-13. DOI:10.1126/science.1219957
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