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culture cognition and coevolution lab
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Major Funded Research Projects

Virtues in Conflict: A Cross-Cultural Study of Virtue Dilemmas and their Resolution
People in different places and times often agree on a set of core virtues. However, when faced with competing urges to do good, their choices can vary substantially and we know very little about the extent or root causes of variation in how people make such choices in different societies. The proposed project will bring together scholars in philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and economics to answer the following questions: 1) What virtue dilemmas are most commonly faced by people in different places and times? 2) How are such dilemmas resolved in diverse cultural contexts? 3) How do cultural and ecological conditions influence how people resolve such dilemmas?

Choosing the Good: "Choosing the Good" explores how people from different cultures make tough choices between the better of two goods.

Ritual, Community and Conflict: Some of the greatest atrocities have been caused by groups defending or advancing their political aspirations and sacred values. In order to comprehend and address the wanton violence of war, terrorism and genocide, it is necessary to understand the forces that bind and drive human groups. This five-year programme of research investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired, and coordinated: ritual.

The Roots of Human Sociality: An Ethno-Experimental Exploration of the Foundations of Economic Norms in 16 Small-Scale Societies. Primary Investigators are Joe Henrich and Jean Ensminger (Cal Tech). Fund by NSF (Anthropology, Economics and Decision Science) for 3 years starting in 2002 (Link to Project Website by Description, Proposal, Protocols, and Paper)

Building a Program in Culture and Cognition. Funded by NSF Anthropology for 5 years. Aim is to understand the ontogeny of culture through a detailed study of cultural learning using in-depth ethnography, social networks, and experiments in Fijian villages. [Website]

The Origins of Prosociality. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation The projects involves a comparative study of prosocial behavior in chimpanzees and human children in order to illuminate the phylogeny and ontogeny of social behavior. Collaborative work with Joan Silk, Sarah Brosnan, Daniel Povinelli, and Jennifer Vonk.

Folksociology: A cross-cultural and developmental investigation of how groups influence thinking about individuals. Funded by the Social Science Research Coucil. Human social life is dominated by groups. Clans, clubs, castes and guilds, along with a constellation of other groups, shape all aspects of human life, from trade and cooperation to marriage and child-rearing. Casual observation suggests that not all kinds of groups are equally salient and durable. Some groups, ethnic and racial groups in particular, seem to stand out in their ability to variously motivate in-group trust and out-group oppression. Our project team aims to probe the psychological foundations of how people in very different societies think about ethnic and racial groups, whether such groups evoke different patterns of inferences vis-à-vis other social groups, and how these patterns develop in children.