David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson
Binghamton University | SUNY Binghamton · Department of Biological Sciences

About

305
Publications
114,372
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31,702
Citations
Citations since 2017
6 Research Items
7843 Citations
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Introduction

Publications

Publications (305)
Article
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Dynamic relationships between individuals and groups have been a focus for evolutionary theorists and modelers for decades. Among evolutionists, selfish gene theory promotes reductionist approaches while multilevel selection theory encourages a context-sensitive approach that appreciates that individuals and groups can both matter. Among economists...
Chapter
The chapters are based largely on a movement to teach evolution across the curriculum, beginning in 2003 when one of the authors decided to initiate a program at Binghamton University. The first sister program was started by another author at SUNY–New Paltz in 2007, followed by a National Science Foundation grant during 2008–2010 to develop the pro...
Chapter
Since the advent of the first interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) programs at Binghamton University and the State University of New York at New Paltz, students across disciplines have been afforded the opportunity to learn foundational evolutionary principles. They have had the opportunity to explore how evolutionary ideas apply across th...
Chapter
Fostering higher-order cognitive skills (e.g., critical thinking and knowledge transfer) are oft-cited goals in education, but students do not acquire these skills as much as they could and should. There are major efforts shifting the emphasis in schools toward fostering these habits of mind for lifelong learning. Science education is of particular...
Chapter
The field of Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) stands at a significant junction. On one hand, the field has demonstrated the ability to serve as a model for a truly interdisciplinary approach to higher education. That said, evolutionary approaches outside certain areas of biology proper have been often met with skepticism and academic mistrust. In 3 disc...
Chapter
While education has the narrow goal of teaching subject matter, schools are also charged with the broad goal of fostering behavioral, social, and cultural development. Yet, as many students fail to achieve proficient scores on academic exams, education policymakers respond by narrowing their focus—accentuating content instruction over other develop...
Article
As a process of blind variation and selective retention, evolution lacks intentionality. Nevertheless, intentional processes can be a product of evolution and can double back to effect evolution. This article briefly describes how intentional processes evolve, how they figure in human cultural evolution, and how future cultural evolution needs to b...
Article
Quality of Life (QoL) is a multi-dimensional concept that includes: a) the long-term sustainability of the earth; b) good health, education, welfare; and c) the psychological state of wellbeing. This article, which introduces a special issue on QoL from an evolutionary perspective, shows how modern evolutionary science provides a “toolkit” for stud...
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Advances in the study of social behavior require a revision in the economic concept of the invisible hand, which states that self-interested behavior leads to well-functioning societies without individuals having the welfare of the society in mind. Evolutionary theory shows that self-interest does not robustly benefit the common good because behavi...
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Physical attractiveness is most commonly presumed to be an exogenous characteristic that influences people's feelings, perceptions, and behavior across myriad types of relationships. We investigate the opposite prediction in which feelings toward other people influence the perceptions of others' attractiveness. Focusing specifically on subordinates...
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Humans possess great capacity for behavioral and cultural change, but our ability to manage change is still limited. This article has two major objectives: first, to sketch a basic science of intentional change centered on evolution; second, to provide examples of intentional behavioral and cultural change from the applied behavioral sciences, whic...
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We present a framework for a pragmatic science of cultural evolution. It is now possible for behavioral science to systematically influence the further evolution of cultural practices. As this science develops, it may become possible to prevent many of the problems affecting human wellbeing. By cultural practices, we refer to everything that humans...
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We thank the commentators for an extraordinarily diverse and constructive set of comments. Nearly all applaud our goal of sketching a unified science of change, even while raising substantive points that we look forward to addressing in our reply, which we group into the following categories: (1) What counts as evolutionary; (2) Ethical considerati...
Article
Whenever selection operates at a given level of a multitier hierarchy, units at that level should become the object of functional analysis, and units at lower levels should be studied as proximate mechanisms. This intuition already exists for the study of genes in individuals, when individuals are the unit of selection. It is only beginning to be a...
Article
The target article was written for a workshop that I organized with Lin Ostrom titled “Rules as Genotypes in Cultural Evolution”. In my commentary, I describe the background for the workshop and target article in addition to commenting on the article itself. A compelling case can be made for functionally organized human groups as like species that...
Chapter
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Religion may be one factor that enabled large-scale complex human societies to evolve. Utilizing a cultural evolutionary approach, this chapter seeks explanations for patterns of complexity and variation in religion within and across groups, over time. Properties of religious systems (e.g., rituals, ritualized behaviors, overimitation, synchrony, s...
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Migration is a fundamental trait in humans and animals. Recent studies investigated the effect of migration on the evolution of cooperation, showing that contingent migration favors cooperation in spatial structures. In those studies, only local migration to immediate neighbors was considered, while long-range migration has not been considered yet,...
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Economic and evolutionary thinking have been entwined throughout their histories, but evolutionary theory does not function as a general theoretical framework for economics and public policy, as it does for the biological sciences. In this lead article for a special issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, we first describe how e...
Article
The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) is one of the many islands in an archipelago of human-related disciplines that are largely isolated from each other. Evolution provides a unifying theoretical framework that can unite the Ivory Archipelago, achieving the goal of consilience, or unity of knowledge. ACBS can both gain from and...
Chapter
Many branches of intellectual thought acknowledge the importance of evolution for other species, our physical bodies, and a few basic instincts such as the urge to eat and have sex, but treat our rich behavioral and cultural diversity as somehow outside the orbit of evolution. This essay describes an alternative paradigm that has been developing ov...
Article
Review of: The Neighborhood Project: Using Evo lution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time. by David Sloan Wilson. Little, Brown and Company, 2011. 448 pp. $25.99 (ISBN 9780316037679 cloth).
Article
When observing an unfamiliar neighborhood, people use indicators of physical disorder to judge the local community (i.e., community percep-tion), associating them with crime and weak relationships between neigh-bors. The authors argue that these judgments depend on people's definition of disorder, which is adapted to their local community. This is...
Article
What happens when you dissect the work of one of the 20th century's most influential economists using the scalpel of evolutionary theory, asks David Sloan Wilson
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Team decision making dynamics are investigated from a novel perspective by shifting agency from decision makers to representations of potential solutions. We provide a new way to navigate social dynamics of collective decision making by interpreting decision makers as constituents of an evolutionary environment of an ecology of evolving solutions....
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The intellectual histories of economics and evolutionary biology are closely intertwined because both subjects deal with living, complex, evolving systems. Because the subject matter is similar, contemporary evolutionary thought has much to offer to economics. In recent decades theoretical biology has progressed faster than economics in understandi...
Article
Evolutionary theory includes a number of major hypotheses that can be applied to the study of all traits, including the traits associated with religion. Although evolutionists agree about the general theoretical framework, they have disagreed about which hypotheses best describe the nature of religion. Some favor group-level adaptationism, others f...
Article
Adaptations that are favored by natural selection can nevertheless count as pathological when they harm others or even the individual over the long term. This statement holds for altruism, along with other traits. By definition, altruism is vulnerable to exploitation and therefore harmful for the altruist some of the time. In addition, altruism pra...
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This article proposes an evolutionary model of risky behavior in adolescence and contrasts it with the prevailing developmental psychopathology model. The evolutionary model contends that understanding the evolutionary functions of adolescence is critical to explaining why adolescents engage in risky behavior and that successful intervention depend...
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Improving the academic performance of at-risk high school students has proven difficult, often calling for an extended day, extended school year, and other expensive measures. Here we report the results of a program for at-risk 9th and 10th graders in Binghamton, New York, called the Regents Academy that takes place during the normal school day and...
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Neighborhood social dynamics have been shown to impact behavioral development in residents, including levels of prosociality (i.e. positive social behavior). This study explores whether residential moves to neighborhoods with different social dynamics can influence further prosocial development. Prosociality, five domains of social support, and res...
Article
We should be prepared to acknowledge the influence of a highly individualistic culture on theories put forward during the second half of the 20th century
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Evolution has shaped our social landscape so it ought to be able to transform our city neighbourhoods too, argues David Sloan Wilson
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Darwin proposed that altruism arose because it makes groups fitter. But group selection, as this idea is known, has a complicated history
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The revival of group selection is a result of better models and experimental studies showing it is indeed possible
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Our ability to cooperate and to suppress cheats means that selection at the group level has been an exceptionally strong force during human evolution
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Group selection, which was once widely rejected as a significant evolutionary force, is now accepted by all who seriously study the subject. There is still widespread confusion about group selection, however, not only among students and the general public, but among professional evolutionists who do not directly study the subject. We list eight cri...
Article
It has been suggested that the use of intrasexual aggression is a form of competition associated with reproductive opportunities. Here the authors investigated the relationship between retrospective dating and flirting behavior and peer aggression and victimization during middle and high school. Results indicate that the use of peer aggression was...
Article
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When entering an unfamiliar neighborhood, adaptive social decisions are dependent on an accurate assessment of the local safety. Studies of cities have shown that the maintenance of physical structures is correlated with the strength of ties between neighbors, which in turn is responsible for the crime level. Thus it should be theoretically possibl...
Article
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EvoS is a consortium of evolutionary studies programs that can catalyze evolutionary training across the curriculum in higher education. This special issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach shows how the dictum “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” can be achieved within the biological sciences and expanded to include...
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In Adaptation and Natural Selection, George C. Williams linked the distinction between group and individual adaptation with the distinction between group and individual selection. Williams' Principle, as we will call it, says that adaptation at a level requires selection at that level. This is a necessary but not a sufficient condition; for example...
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The costs and limits of phenotypic plasticity are thought to have important ecological and evolutionary consequences, yet they are not as well understood as the benefits of plasticity. At least nine ideas exist regarding how plasticity may be costly or limited, but these have rarely been discussed together. The most commonly discussed cost is that...
Chapter
Human evolution can be described in terms of three C's: Cognition, Culture, and Cooperation. Cognition includes the capacity for symbolic thought that lies at the heart of both language and spirituality. Culture includes the capacity to transmit information, both horizontally and vertically, leading to cumulative behavioural change and rapid adapta...
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The use of aggression can be considered an adaptive, context-dependent strategy that can function to obtain status, co-opt resources, or both. Extended involvement in such interactions can lead to negative psychosocial correlates in future social situations for both aggressors and victims. This study investigated whether self-reported peer aggressi...
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Human sexual behavior is highly variable both within and between populations. While sex-related characteristics and sexual behavior are central to evolutionary theory (sexual selection), little is known about the genetic bases of individual variation in sexual behavior. The variable number tandem repeats (VNTR) polymorphism in exon III of the human...
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In evolution, exploitative strategies often create a paradox in which the most successful individual strategy "within" the group is also the most detrimental strategy "for" the group, potentially resulting in extinction. With regard to sexual conflict, the overexploitation of females by harmful males can yield similar consequences. Despite these ev...
Article
In sexual conflict, aggressive males frequently diminish the long-term reproductive success of females in efforts to gain a short-term advantage over rival males. This short-term advantage can selectively favour high-exploitation males. However, just as the over-exploitation of resources can lead to local extinction, the over-exploitation of female...
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Gossip in the workplace has generally been ignored by researchers and often criticized by practitioners. The authors apply a transdisciplinary evolutionary approach to argue that gossip is a natural part of social organizations and that certain conditions can encourage socially-redeeming gossip. They draw on case studies involving cattle ranchers,...
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Although Darwinism has gained a foothold in the social sciences, in the humanities, with a few exceptions, it is still largely rejected—not, as some would claim, because humanists are all radical poststructuralists who deny that material reality exists, but rather because, with notable exceptions, Darwinists who work within the humanities have adop...
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Numerous species of freshwater fish are known to be site specific, yet the ecological and behavioral factors influencing home range size have rarely been examined. In this study we examine aggression, predator avoidance and feeding rate in juvenile pumpkinseed sunfish as a function of location within their home range. We also compare the behavior o...
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Handgrip strength (HGS) is highly heritable and a good overall measure of strength and muscle function. Indicative of blood testosterone levels and fat-free body mass, HGS is also highly sexually dimorphic. Recent psychological research shows that HGS is correlated with a number of social variables, but only in males. We conducted three studies to...
Article
This chapter reviews the debate on group selection, a concept that has experienced vertiginous ups and downs since the 1960s, and brings it up to modern standards within the broader context of multilevel selection (MLS) theory. It specifically offers a brief overview of MLS theory, major evolutionary transitions, and human evolution as a major tran...
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Wild et al. argue that the evolution of reduced virulence can be understood from the perspective of inclusive fitness, obviating the need to evoke group selection as a contributing causal factor. Although they acknowledge the mathematical equivalence of the inclusive fitness and multilevel selection approaches, they conclude that reduced virulence...
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ScienceBlogs site and combined into a single document here for convenience. The blog format should not mask my serious intent. I regard it as the best introduction to multilevel selection for the beginner or review for those who think they understand the subject. When I publish it in an academic format, hopefully with commentaries by colleagues on...
Book
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During much of the twentieth century, social scientists were predicting that religions would gradually diminish and disappear with the spread of science, education, and economic growth. Instead, we have witnessed a global revival of religious movements, a source of both hope and concern in the twenty-first century. Alongside this trend, the last de...
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Previous research has shown a strong connection between body mass index (BMI) and peer aggression and victimization. Here we report on two separate studies investigating this relationship, providing evolutionary interpretations based on intrasexual selection and reproductive competition. The first study investigated self-reported aggression and vic...
Article
It is a foundational prediction of evolutionary theory that human beliefs accurately approximate reality only insofar as accurate beliefs enhance fitness. Otherwise, adaptive misbeliefs will prevail. Unlike McKay & Dennett (M&D), we think that adaptive belief systems rely heavily upon misbeliefs. However, the case for positive illusions as an examp...
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The tragedy of the commons usually refers to the overexploitation of resources such as food or water. Here, we show in a laboratory study that competition among males for females can also result in a tragedy of the commons’ situation. Male water striders (Aquarius remigis) vary widely in their aggressiveness toward pursuing females. The most aggres...
Chapter
In this book leading scholars, researchers, and practitioners of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) and other cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBTs) share their perspectives and empirical findings on the nature of rational and irrational beliefs, the role of beliefs as mediators of functional and dysfunctional emotions and behaviors, and clini...
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Sexual conflict occurs when males and females act against each others' interest, typically resulting in selection favoring harmful males. We performed laboratory experiments on sexual conflict that both confined individuals in isolated groups, which prevents selection acting counter to this conflict, and provided more naturalistic multigroup popula...
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A firm grasp of evolution is invaluable for understanding our own species in addition to the rest of the biological world; however, not only does much of the American public reject evolution, but many thinkers within the scientific community resist its application to their own disciplines. In an attempt to overcome these challenges through educatio...
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The comments on Janet Landa’s (J Bioecon 10(3):259–278, 2008) target article provide a fascinating snapshot of how multilevel selection theory is perceived across several disciplines. When we focus on the zone of agreement among the commentators, Landa’s article provides an important example of convergent cultural evolution. When we focus on the zo...
Chapter
A rapid process of integration is taking place for theories of cooperation in both evolutionary biology and the human social sciences. It includes a return to the concept of social groups as like single organisms, which was once commonplace but was eclipsed by various forms of individualism that became dominant during the second half of the twentie...
Conference Paper
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We developed Swarm Chemistry 1.2, a new version of the Swarm Chemistry simulator with an enhanced architecture of interactive evolutionary design for exploring heterogeneous self-propelled particle swarm dynamics. In the new version, each evolutionary operator acts locally and visually to part of the population of swarms on a screen, without causin...
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Prosociality is a fundamental theme in all branches of the human behavioral sciences. Evolutionary theory sets an even broader stage by examining prosociality in all species, including the distinctive human capacity to cooperate in large groups of unrelated individuals. We use evolutionary theory to investigate human prosociality at the scale of a...
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We studied levels of peer victimization from an evolutionary perspective by investigating self-reported victimization during adolescence in relation to sexual behavior in college students. One-hundred and twelve (47 female) undergraduates completed self-report measures of victimization during middle and high school, onset of sexual activity, and nu...
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It is common to portray conservative and liberal Protestant denominations as “strong” and “weak” on the basis of indices such as church attendance. Alternatively, they can be regarded as qualitatively different cultural systems that coexist in a multiple-niche environment. We integrate these two perspectives with a study of American teenagers based...
Article
According to the advocates of a "Generalized Darwinism" (GD), the three core Darwinian principles of variation, selection and retention (or inheritance) can be used as a general framework for the development of theories explaining evolutionary processes in the socio­economic domain. Even though these are originally biological terms, GD argues that...
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Group selection or "for the good of the group" was once accepted in evolutionary thinking but eventually was discredited for further reassessment. The problem with this behavior is that they are locally disadvantageous. Selection between individuals within groups favors cheating behaviors and behaviors that increase the relative fitness of the whol...
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Selfishness is seldom considered a group-beneficial strategy. In the typical evolutionary formulation, altruism benefits the group, selfishness undermines altruism, and the purpose of the model is to identify mechanisms, such as kinship or reciprocity, that enable altruism to evolve. Recent models have explored punishment as an important mechanism...
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1. The discovery and utilization of small carcasses by burying beetles (Silphidae, Nicrophorus) was studied by placing dead mice at random points on large grids at two Iocations in Michigan, U.S.A.2. The majority of mice are found within 24 h by more beetles than ultimately will utilize the carcass. If a carcass is likely to be usurped by a larger...
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In this paper, we present an evolutionary framework, multilevel selection theory (MLS), that is highly amenable to existing social psychological theory and empiricism. MLS provides an interpretation of natural selection that shows how group-beneficial traits can evolve, a prevalent implication of social psychological data. We outline the theory and...
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Social norms are a widely used concept for explaining human behavior, but there are few studies exploring how we cognitively utilize them. We incorporate here an evolutionary approach to studying social norms, predicting that if norms have been critical to biological fitness, then individuals should have adaptive mechanisms to conform to, and avoid...
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The authors sought to further validate a cigarette purchase task (CPT), a self-report analogue of a progressive-ratio operant schedule, for the assessment of the relative reinforcing efficacy (RRE) of nicotine in smokers. The measure was assessed in terms of its correspondence to typically observed operant behavior, convergent validity, and diverge...
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The concept of a group as comparable to a single organism has had a long and turbulent history. Currently, methodological individualism dominates in many areas of psychology and evolution, but natural se-lection is now known to operate at multiple levels of the biological hierarchy. When between-group selection dom-inates within-group selection, a...
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Pluralism is the coexistence of equivalent theoretical frameworks, either because they are historically entrenched or because they achieve separate insights by viewing the same process in different ways. A recent article by West et al. [Journal of Evolutionary Biology (2007) vol. 20, 415-432] attempts to classify the many equivalent frameworks that...
Article
We spent many hours in Cwm Idwal, examining all the rocks with ex- treme care, as Sedgwick was anxious to find fossils in them; but nei - ther of us saw a trace of the wonderful glacial phenomena all around us; we did not notice the plainly scored rocks, the perched boulders, the lateral and terminal moraines. Yet these phenomena are so con- spicuo...
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Current sociobiology is in theoretical disarray, with a diversity of frameworks that are poorly related to each other Part of the problem is a reluctance to revisit the pivotal events that took place during the 1960s, including the rejection of group selection and the development of alternative theoretical frameworks to explain the evolution of coo...