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The Role of Cultural History and Environment in Explaining Human Behavioral Variation

Dine sheepherder

In this project, we measure the relative contribution of environment and cultural history in explaining the behavioral variation of 172 Native American tribes at the time of European contact, across different categories of traits, including diet, technology, marriage practices and economic organization.  

The behavioral variation among human societies is vast and unmatched in the animal world. Scholars have been debating for over a century whether this variation is due to variation in the ecological environment or to differences in cultural traditions. Underlying this debate is a more fundamental question: Is the richness of our behavioral repertoire due to our intelligence and cognitive flexibility, or to our capacity for culture? 

In this project, we measure the relative contribution of environment and cultural history in explaining the behavioral variation of 172 Native American tribes at the time of European contact, across different categories of traits, including diet, technology, marriage practices and economic organization.  

Sarah Mathew, Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Charles Perreault, Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change