Social Information Transmission and Human Biology

Social Information Transmission and Human Biology

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Features

  • Presents an improved awareness of how human behavior influences health and reproductive fitness
  • Provides evidence of Darwinian processes in contemporary human populations, while examining the relationship between behavioral strategies and reproductive fitness
  • Illustrates the importance of the concept of niche construction in contemporary human populations
  • Establishes common trends between contemporary human populations and our short-term and longer-term evolutionary heritage
  • Incorporates a very broad range of human behavior, focusing beyond those aspects conventionally studied by evolutionary biologists
  • Summary

    Recent research has emphasized that socially transmitted information may affect both the gene pool and the phenotypes of individuals and populations, and that an improved understanding of evolutionary issues is beneficial to those working towards the improvement of human health. Equally, an improved awareness of how human behavior influences health and reproductive fitness is starting to shed new light on the processes that shape the evolution of human behavior and the human mind.

    Focusing directly on these emerging trends, Social Information Transmission and Human Biology bridges the gap between primarily theoretical work undertaken by those with evolutionary interests and biomedical work undertaken by those dealing with practical issues in human health and demographics. Incorporating papers from a symposium organized under the auspices of the UK Society for the Study of Human Biology, this volume merges the perspectives of internationally renowned evolutionary and theoretical biologists, zoologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, psychologists, and medical researchers whose work is linked by common themes addressing how information is transmitted socially and how its transmission influences both immediate and evolutionary biological outcomes.

    Emphasizes the diverse ways in which socially transmitted information impacts on human biology

    To illustrate these themes, the chapters draw on models and data ranging from observations on chimpanzee populations in the wild and on the human archaeological record, to studies of contemporary humans in both developing and industrialized countries. Taking a broad approach, many of the chapters address areas of behavior that are familiar to scientists in particular fields, but do so using a variety of cross-disciplinary perspectives, which will prove stimulating for researchers in a range of academic subject areas, while helping to facilitate closer collaboration between biological and social scientists.

    Table of Contents

    Introduction; Jonathan Wells, Simon Strickland, Kevin Laland
    An Introduction to Evolutionary Models of Human Social Behavior; Kevin Laland and Gillian Brown
    How Niche Construction Contributes to Human Gene-Culture Coevolution; John Odling-Smee
    State and Value: A Perspective from Behavioral Ecology; John McNamara and Alasdair Houston
    An Agnostic View of Memes; Robert Aunger
    Biological Ends and Human Social Information Transmission; Jonathan Wells and Simon Strickland
    The Significance of Socially Transmitted Information for Nutrition and Health in the Great Ape Clade; Andrew Whiten
    Language: Costs and Benefits of a Specialized System for Social Information Transmission; Daniel Nettle
    The Evolution of Social Information Transmission in Homo; Steven Mithen
    From Cultural History to Cultural Evolution: An Archaeological Perspective on Social Information Transmission; Stephen Shennan
    The Uptake of Modern Contraception in a Gambian Community: The Diffusion of an Innovation over 25 Years; Ruth Mace, Nadine Allal, Rebecca Sear, and Andrew Prentice
    Sex without Birth or Death: A Comparison of Two International Humanitarian Movements; John Cleland and Susan Watkins
    Smoking and the New Health Education in Britain, 1950s–1970s; Virginia Berridge and Kelly Loughlin
    The Demographic and Health Impact of the One Child Family Policy; Therese Hesketh
    Social Trends and Psychopathology; Roland Littlewood
    Epilogue: Memory, Tradition, and Teleology; Simon Strickland

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