Speaker Series

Fall 2019

  • Daniel Hruschka
  • 10-14-2019
  • Daniel Hruschka
  • Arizona State University, School of Human Evolution and Social Change
  • What does it mean to replicate studies in a cultural species?
  • Replicating a study among our fellow humans requires a researcher to interact with study participants according to protocols that are comparable with previous studies. However, thanks to humanity’s rich capacity for cultural learning, it can be challenging to identify what counts as a “comparable protocol” across different human groups. Specifically, diverse culturally learned capacities, motivations, symbolic connections, and expectations for appropriate social interactions can make some protocols impossible to implement directly across cultures while rendering the results of other “workable” protocols nearly impossible to interpret. I used examples from our work studying the social determinants of giving to illustrate: (1) the extent of this problem, and (2) how overcoming such challenges can tell us about our tacit models of how humans should think and behave. In this way, such efforts at translation are not just a methodological exercise, but can also inform our models of human psychological and behavioral diversity.

  • Greg Bryant
  • 11-04-2019
  • Greg Bryant
  • UCLA, Communication
  • The evolution of human laughter
  • Laughter is a ubiquitous nonverbal affective vocal signal that manifests itself universally across cultures. Human laughter is homologous with play vocalizations across mammalian species, and likely retains this conserved play function. But laughter in humans has unique features as well, suggesting a suite of species-specific communicative functions assimilated with language use and sophisticated social cognition. In this talk I will describe several lines of research from my lab over the last decade exploring the psychoacoustics of laughter, cross-cultural universals and variations in laughter perception, and the role of laughter in everyday conversation. Laughter provides a unique window into human vocal signaling and cooperative behavior, as well as an example of how ancestral communicative behaviors become integrated with later evolving systems.

  • Ted Koditschek
  • 12-02-2019
  • Ted Koditschek
  • University of Missouri, History
  • The Coevolution of Nineteenth Century Evolutionary Theory and Racial Management Doctrines in the Nineteenth Century British Empire
  • This paper will consider the ways in which scientific theories of evolution in the nineteenth century were influenced by problems of racial management in the nineteenth century British Empire. Conversely, it will examine the ways in which new understandings about race and racial hierarchies during this period depended on the development of the evolutionary theories endorsed by science. In particular, I will argue that the peculiar mix of Darwinian and Lamarckian concepts of evolutionary development that prevailed in scientific circles during the period before Weismann were substantially underwritten by the need to justify imperial racial hierarchies. At the same time, these hierarchies (and the policies needed to sustain them) were legitimized by evolutionary theories that endorsed liberal notions of civilizational progress but (in the case of subordinated races) insisted on the necessity of postponing this liberalism, by projecting the prospect of racial equality onto a distant future time.