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19.1: Human Behavioral Ecology

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    • Define human behavioral ecology.
    • Describe the types of behaviors that human behavioral ecologists study.
    • Explain why humans share food.
    • Identify how human behavioral ecology contributes to contemporary world issues.

    About the Author

    Kristin Snopkowski

    Boise State University,
    Kristin Snopkowski

    Kristin Snopkowski is a human behavioral ecologist and associate professor of anthropology at Boise State University. Her research examines reproductive decisions, including how many children people choose to have, how other family members influence those decisions, and the interaction between females and males in negotiating these decisions. She has conducted field work in Bolivia, interviewing women about their reproductive choices, and has been analyzing data sets from around the world to understand how environmental factors influence these decisions worldwide.

    For Further Exploration

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    Low, Bobbi S. 2015. Why Sex Matters: A Darwinian Look at Human Behavior. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Cronk, Lee and Beth L. Leech. 2013. Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


    Andreoni, James, and Ragan Petrie. 2004. “Public Goods Experiments without Confidentiality: A Glimpse into Fund-Raising.” Journal of Public Economics 88 (7-8): 1605–1623. doi:10.1016/S0047-2727(03)00040-9.

    Bliege Bird, R. L., and D.W. Bird. 1997. “Delayed Reciprocity and Tolerated Theft.” Current Anthropology 38 (1): 49–78.

    Boyd, Robert, and Peter J. Richerson. 1992. “Punishment Allows the Evolution of Cooperation (or Anything Else) in Sizable Groups.” Ethology and Sociobiology 13 (3): 171–195.

    Colleran, Heidi, and Kristin Snopkowski. 2018. “Variation in Wealth and Educational Drivers of Fertility Decline across 45 Countries.” Population Ecology 60: 155–169. doi:10.1007/s10144-018-0626-5.

    Curtis, Valerie. 2013. Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    de Waal, Frans B. M. 2000. “Primates—A Natural Heritage of Conflict Resolution.” Science 289 (5479): 586–590. doi:10.1126/science.289.5479.586.

    Dunbar, Robin I. M. 1998. “The Social Brain Hypothesis.” Evolutionary Anthropology 6 (5): 178–190.

    Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2018. “Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

    Fehr, Ernst, and Urs Fischbacher. 2003. “The Nature of Human Altruism.” Nature 425 (6960): 785–791.

    Gurven, Michael. 2004. “Reciprocal Altruism and Food-Sharing Decisions among Hiwi and Ache Hunter-Gatherers.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 56 (4): 366–380. doi:10.1007/s00265-004-0793-6.

    Hamilton, W. D. 1964. “The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour I & II.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 7 (1): 1–52.

    Hawkes, Kristen. 1991. “Showing off: Tests of an Hypothesis about Men’s Foraging Goals.” Ethology and Sociobiology 12 (1): 29–54.

    Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer. 2009. Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

    Johnson, Jeffrey G., Patricia Cohen, Jocelyn Brown, Elizabeth M. Smailes, and David P. Bernstein. 1999. “Childhood Maltreatment Increases Risk for Personality Disorders During Early Adulthood.” Archives of General Psychiatry 56 (7): 600–606. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.56.7.600.

    Milinski, Manfred, Dirk Semmann, and Hans Jürgen Krambeck. 2002. “Reputation Helps Solve the ‘Tragedy of the Commons.” Nature 415 (6870): 424–426.

    National Center for Homeless Education. 2017. Federal Data Summary: School Years 2013–2014 to 2015–2016.

    Parker, Sue Taylor, and Kathleen Rita Gibson. 1979. “A Developmental Model for the Evolution of Language and Intelligence in Early Hominids.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2 (3): 367–381. doi:10.1017/S0140525X0006307X.

    Pepper, Gillian V., and Daniel Nettle. 2014. “Out-of-Control Mortality Matters: The Effect of Perceived Uncontrollable Mortality Risk on a Health-Related Decision.” PeerJ 2: e459. doi:10.7717/peerj.459.

    Sear, Rebecca, and Ruth Mace. 2008. “Who Keeps Children Alive? A Review of the Effects of Kin on Child Survival.” Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (1): 1–18. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.10.001.

    The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. 2008. “Key Findings about Charitable Giving.”

    Trivers, Robert L. 1971. “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 46 (1): 35–57. doi:10.1086/406755.


    Thanks to Sheryl Millard, Steven Menicucci, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors for helpful feedback on previous drafts of this section.

    Figure Attributions

    Figure C.1 Pictures from bus 13 by Sarvodaya Shramadana is used under a CC BY 2.0 License.

    Figure C.2 Diwali sweets India 2009 by robertsharp is used under a CC BY 2.0 License.

    Figure C.3 Human Behavioral Ecology by Katie Nelson original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

    Figure C.4 Lao Mangkong family eats together by BigBrotherMouse is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

    Figure C.5 Jakun Hunting Party Blowpipe Malaysia Mongoloid by Walter William Skeat, Charles Otto Blagden is in the public domain.

    Figure C.6 Explanations of food sharing table by Kristin Snopkowski original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

    19.1: Human Behavioral Ecology is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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