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Modernizing Evolutionary Anthropology : Introduction to the Special Issue.

By SM Mattison and R Sear


Evolutionary anthropology has traditionally focused on the study of small-scale, largely self-sufficient societies. The increasing rarity of these societies underscores the importance of such research yet also suggests the need to understand the processes by which such societies are being lost-what we call "modernization"-and the effects of these processes on human behavior and biology. In this article, we discuss recent efforts by evolutionary anthropologists to incorporate modernization into their research and the challenges and rewards that follow. Advantages include that these studies allow for explicit testing of hypotheses that explore how behavior and biology change in conjunction with changes in social, economic, and ecological factors. In addition, modernization often provides a source of "natural experiments" since it may proceed in a piecemeal fashion through a population. Challenges arise, however, in association with reduced variability in fitness proxies such as fertility, and with the increasing use of relatively novel methodologies in evolutionary anthropology, such as the analysis of secondary data. Confronting these challenges will require careful consideration but will lead to an improved understanding of humanity. We conclude that the study of modernization offers the prospect of developing a richer evolutionary anthropology, by encompassing ultimate and proximate explanations for behavior expressed across the full range of human societies

Publisher: Springer (part of Springer Nature)
Year: 2016
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Provided by: LSHTM Research Online
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