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Areas of Specialization
Biocultural perspectives on mate choice, human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, kinship; Brazil.
The underlying theme in most of my research is understanding how a limited stock of innate ideas can be recombined and customized to generate the kaleidoscopic variety of human cultures.
My early research was on standards of physical attractiveness across cultures. In research in the United States, Paraguay (Ache Indians), Brazil, and Russia I found evidence for both universals and variation in standards of attractiveness.
My current research goes in two major directions.
First, I am working on some new approaches to the study of kinship. I am interested in how people think about kinship, which means investigating how the bewildering profusion of kinship terminologies around the world may generated by a few (possibly innate) universals of social cognition. And I am interested in how the anthropology of kinship relates to the biology of kinship, which means investigating what the biologists' theory of kin selection looks like when modified to accommodate the human aptitude for cooperation and moral behavior.
Second, I am interested in race and racial categorization in Brazil. Brazil is often presented as sharply contrasting with the United States, with a rich vocabulary for describing race, racial mixture, and somatic variation, and no sharp lines drawn between the categories of black and white. My current fieldwork joins ethnography and experimental methods to investigate how far Brazilians' underlying ideas of races, essences, living kinds and the inheritance of race really differ from those of U.S. Americans.
2010 Kinship, Language, and Prehistory: Per Hage and the Renaissance in Kinship Studies. coedited with Bojka Milicic. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press.
1996 Physical Attractiveness and the Theory of Sexual Selection: Results from Five Populations. Ann Arbor, MI: Museum of Anthropology Press, University of Michigan.
REVIEW: 1997 Beverly I. Strassman, Quarterly Review of Biology 72(4):501
2010 Human kinship, from conceptual structure to grammar. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33(5):367-416 (with BBS comments).
2009 Looks and living kinds: Varieties of racial cognition in Bahia, Brazil. Journal of Cognition and Culture 9(4):247-259.
2004 The universal psychology of kinship: Evidence from language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8(5):211-215.
2003 The generative psychology of kinship, part I: Cognitive universals and evolutionary psychology. Evolution and Human Behavior 24(5):303-319.
2003 The generative psychology of kinship, part II: Generating variation from universal building blocks with Optimality Theory. Evolution and Human Behavior 24(5):320-350.
2003 Kinship and deep history: Exploring connections between culture areas, genes, and languages. American Anthropologist 105(3):501-514.
1996 An evolutionary perspective on physical attractiveness.(Abstract only). Evolutionary Anthropology 5(3):97-109.
1995 Sexual selection, physical attractiveness and facial neoteny: Cross-cultural evidence and implications. Current Anthropology 36(5):723-748.