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Evolution of Human Behavior

Agustin Fuentes

Publication Date - 05 December 2008

ISBN: 9780195333589

320 pages
6 1/8 X 9 1/4 inches

Evolution of Human Behavior is the first text to synthesize and compare the major proposals for human behavioral evolution from an anthropological perspective.


Evolution of Human Behavior is the first text to synthesize and compare the major proposals for human behavioral evolution from an anthropological perspective. Ideal for courses in the evolution of human behavior, human evolutionary ecology, evolutionary psychology, and biological anthropology, this unique volume reviews a wide array of approaches--including human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, memetics, and gene-culture co-evolution--on how and why humans evolved behaviorally. Its overview of current and emerging theoretical practices and perspectives offers a novel resource for both students and practitioners.

Author Agustin Fuentes incorporates recent innovations in evolutionary theory with emerging perspectives from genomic approaches, the current fossil record, and ethnographic studies. He examines basic assumptions about why humans behave as they do, the facts of human evolution, patterns of evolutionary change in a global environmental-temporal context, and the interconnected roles of cooperation and conflict in human history. The net result is a text that moves toward a more holistic understanding of the patterns of human evolution and a more integrated perspective on the evolution of human behavior.


*Accessible, student-friendly writing style offers a concise survey of human behavioral evolution for anthropology and psychology undergraduates
*Pedagogical aids--including summary charts and tables, suggested readings, and a glossary of key terms--enhance the text
*Provides extensive tabular charts comparing the components of the major perspectives and proposals in human behavioral evolution to aid students' understanding of the material
*Illustrative and contemporary examples of research in the area of human behavior engage students

About the Author(s)

Agustin Fuentes is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Core Concepts in Biological Anthropology (2006) and coauthor/editor of Health, Risk and Adversity (2008), Primates in Perspective (OUP, 2006), Primates Face to Face: The Conservation Implications of Human - Nonhuman Primate Interconnections (2002), and The Nonhuman Primates (1999).


"The approach is well thought out and Fuentes is one of the few scholars in our field who could pull it off. . . . I venture to say it might put a new face on our approach to this complex and contentious topic."--Michael Alan Park, Central Connecticut State University

"The thorough and careful discussion of the different approaches used in the study of human behavior . . . should be very useful for students. . . . The examples used are particularly good in illustrating how research in these areas is done."--Robin Bernstein, George Washington University

"The book's strength is its accessible yet rigorous intellectual synthesis of various approaches to the evolution of human behavior. A number of ideas floating in the literature, at conferences, and within scholars' heads are concisely and clearly represented in this book. Some of the theoretical directions that evolutionary approaches are likely to take can also be found here. . . . [The book] will marvelously serve the reader seeking a sophisticated, yet accessible overview of adaptive frameworks guiding our understanding of human behavior."--Peter B. Gray, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, from a review in Evolutionary Psychology, 2009. 7(1): 78-81

"Fuentes succeeds in providing not only just a thorough review of the explanations for human behavioral evolution, both past and present, but also an informative commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of each and on the importance of understanding our evolutionary history. . . . Given the synthetic nature of the book, it covers a broad range of material, and instructors will find it to be a valuable resource."--Teresa Steele, University of California, Davis

Table of Contents

    1. The Relevance of Understanding Human Behavioral Evolution
    Theories and Hypotheses about Behavioral Evolution: Why Are They Relevant?
    Evolution Is Frequently Misunderstood
    We Need to Understand Who We Are
    Practical Issues such as Medicine and Public Health Can Benefit from an Understanding of Behavioral Evolution
    Misunderstanding Human Behavioral Evolution Can Result in Potentially Dangerous Ideas
    A Simple Example of Behavioral Evolution
    Gene Flow
    Genetic Drift
    Why Give This Example?
    2. Why We Behave Like Humans: Historical Perspectives and Basal Assumptions
    Charles Darwin and the Descent of Man
    Alfred Russel Wallace and the Evolution of the Mind
    Between Darwin and Sociobiology
    Spencer, Baldwin, and Morgan: Biology, Psychology, and the Behavioral Evolution of the Human Mind
    The Modern Synthesis
    Washburns' New Physical Anthropology, and the Emergence of an Evolutionary Anthropology of Behavior
    Tinbergen's Four Questions and Their Impact on the Understanding of Behavior
    The Revolution of Sociobiology, Kin Selection, and Selfish Genes: The New Synthesis
    Hamilton and Kin Selection
    Robert Trivers and Reciprocal Altruism
    E.O. Wilson, Evolutionary Sociobiology and the Autocatalysis Model
    Dawkins and the Selfish Gene
    Suggested Readings
    3. Modern Perspectives for Understanding Human Behavioral Evolution: A Review of Basic Assumptions, Structures, and Practice
    Human Behavioral Ecology
    Basic Overview of HBE
    Evolutionary Psychology
    The Adapted Mind
    Goals and Methods
    Contrast with SSSM Specific Approach
    Gene-Culture Coevolution (or Dual Inheritance Theory)
    Summing Up
    Suggested Readings
    4. Basic Bones and Stones: What Do We Know About the Record of Human Evolution (as of 2008)?
    Comparative Primatology Establishes a Baseline for Human Behavior
    Very Brief Summary of Human Fossil Record (~5mya-present)
    The Early Australopithecines
    The Pleistocene Hominins
    The Genus Homo
    Very Brief Summary of the Cultural Record and Behavioral Inferences (~2.6mya-present)
    Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene Forms
    Pleistocene Hominins--Early
    Pleistocene Hominins--Late
    Suggested Readings
    5. A Survey of Hypotheses and Proposals of Why We Behave Like Humans
    Why Select These Proposals?
    Summaries of Specific Hypotheses/Proposals
    Suggested Readings
    6. Discussing the Proposals
    The Comparison Tables
    A Brief Discussion on Shared Components and Differences in the Six Basic Categories
    Environmental and Ecological Pressures
    Sex and Reproduction
    Specific Behavioral Factors
    Of Trends and Patterns
    Suggested Readings
    7. Twenty-First Century Evolutionary Theory/Biology and Thinking about the Evolution of Human Behavior
    Adding to Our Toolkit--Using Four Dimensions of Evolution
    Revisiting Tinbergen's Ontogenetic "Why"
    Four Other Approaches in Evolutionary Biology/Theory
    Phenotypic Plasticity and Ecological Impact/Context: Moving Beyond Norms of Reaction
    Developmental Systems Theory
    Niche Construction
    Biocultural Approaches to Studying Modern Humans
    Can Adding These Perspectives to Existing Practice (as Outlined in Chapters 2 and 3) Impact the Way We Formulate and Test Hypotheses/Conceptualizations of Human Behavioral Evolution?
    What Practices and Perspectives Should Be Removed or De-emphasized?
    What Practices and/or Perspectives Cross All of These Categories?
    What Perspectives Should Be Expanded?
    Suggested Readings
    8. A Synthesis and Prospectus for Examining Human Behavioral Evolution
    A Set of Modest Proposals Emerging from Chapters 1 to 7: Seeking the Broad and the Minute Foci
    Looking at the Areas of Overlap and Interest from Chapter 6
    Cooperation Commonalities
    Cooperation Factors that Deserve Further Examination
    Conflict Commonalities
    Conflict Factors that Deserve Further Examination
    Diet/Food Commonalities
    Diet/Food Factors that Deserve Further Examination
    Ecology/Environment Commonalities
    Ecology/Environment Factors that Deserve Further Examination
    Sex/Reproduction Commonalities:
    Sex/Reproduction Factors that Deserve Further Examination
    Specific Behavior Commonalities
    Specific Behavior Factors that Deserve Further Examination
    A Modest Proposal for a General Framework of Our Evolutionary History
    Between Approximately 2 Million Years and 500,000 Years Ago
    500,000-45,000 Years Ago (Give or Take 10,000 Years)
    45,000 Years Ago Through Today
    9. Problem of Being a Modern Human and Looking at Our Evolution
    Benefits and Flaws in this Prospectus
    Merging Approaches and Perspectives
    How Do We Test This and Why Are Testable Hypotheses Important?
    The Difficulties We Encounter When Reconstructing Our Evolutionary Path and Its Underlying Causes/Patterns
    Basic Educational and Paradigmatic Biases and the Problems These Bring
    Human Niche Construction Matters
    Everyday Life, Gender, and Cultural Anthropology Matter
    Epilogue: Anthropology, Science, and People
    Some Notes on the Value of Integrative Anthropological Approaches
    Getting Past Conflicts between Researchers Studying Human Behavioral Evolution
    The Importance of Understanding the Relationships between Religion, Science, Politics, and Explanations for the Evolution of Humanity
    Appendix: Related Titles for Further Reference