Evolution, Mind & Behavior Program HomePage


Evolution, Mind, and Behavior Conference at UCSB

Fall Quarter 2002


Joint UCLA-UCSB Conferences held quarterly by

UCSB’s Evolution, Mind, and Behavior Program (EMB)  and

UCLA’s Human Nature and Society Program (HNAS)


Saturday 2 November 2002

Location: Harbor Room, University Center (UCEN), UCSB

(see directions below)



  9:30  AM  Breakfast buffet opens

10:30  AM  First talk: Steve Rothstein, Cultural stability and variation in bird song: evidence, reasons, and relations to song development and function

12:00  PM  Lunch.

  1:30  PM  Second talk:  Phil Walker, Human evolution from the Fourth Horseman’s perspective: What do we know about patterns of death in earlier human populations?

  3:00  PM  Coffee break

  3:30  PM  Third talk:  Jim Sidanius, The Interactive Nature of Patriarchy and Arbitrary-set Hierarchy: The Dynamics of Sexism and Racism from An Evolutionary and Social Dominance Perspective

  5:30  PM Adjourn for no-host dinner, Ming Dynasty (see below)




Steve Rothstein    Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, UCSB  rothstei@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Cultural stability and variation in bird song: 

Evidence, reasons, and relations to song development and function


Abstract. Bird song has served as a model system in biology for a number of reasons: developmental processes that are similar to those that occur in human speech, cultural variation that provides parallels with human traditions, key functional aspects that affect fitness in critical ways as regards inter- and intra-sexual interactions and neurological processes and structures that relate to complex behaviors.  In this talk, I will review some of our on going studies of song development and function in cowbirds with special emphasis on song variation as a cultural trait.  Although they are brood parasites reared by numerous other species of birds, cowbirds learn song variations only from conspecifics.  One category of cowbird songs, flight whistles (FWs), appears to develop from a virtually blank slate and can assume any type of sound structure that songbirds are capable of producing.  Different FW types or cultures occur as well defined dialects with discrete spatial borders and vary so much that cowbirds and human birdwatchers fail to recognize some previously unheard dialects as cowbird vocalizations.  Although there is considerable dispersal and gene flow, dialects are temporally stable because males that disperse learn to produce their new dialect and females, which do not sing, learn to prefer mates that give the appropriate local dialect.  Males with the “correct” local dialect are probably preferred because many males do not complete vocal development until 2 years of age so that FW type is an uncheatable indicator of age and indirectly of genetic quality.  The high social valence of performing the correct local dialect is the likely reason dialects are stable and this stability is maintained within populations even during genetic change due to extensive gene flow.  Thus although cultural evolution is generally thought to be more dynamic than genetic evolution, the reverse is true in this and possibly other systems in which conformity to a local culture is a key social convention.


Lunch, UCEN



Phil Walker   UCSB Anthropology  pwalker@anth.ucsb.edu

Human evolution from the Fourth Horseman’s perspective: 

What do we know about patterns of death in earlier human populations?


Abstract. Understanding the mortality patterns of our ancestors is obviously fundamental to any Darwinian analysis of modern human adaptations, including our evolved cognitive capabilities.  Death is a depressing subject and, perhaps because of this, there is a strong tendency for evolutionary biologists to view human “reproductive success” from the rosy, positive side of the birth-to-death ratio.

         A review of the empirical data currently available on mortality patterns in earlier human populations reveals the depth of our ignorance concerning basic demographic parameters such as average age at death and how it has changed through time. Although collections of ancient human skeletal remains seem at first glance to be an easy to interpret source of paleodemographic information, the interpretive problems such collections present are formidable. Bioarchaeological studies clearly show that age and sex-specific patterns of differential deposition and recovery can greatly skew the demographic profiles of skeletal collections. Paleodemographers are also beginning to reluctantly accept the counterintuitive fact that the age distributions of skeletal collections provide us with more information about fertility rates than they do about average age at death.

        In view of these interpretive problems, what can we say with any certainty about the history of human mortality patterns? First, there is the obvious fact of population growth: beginning in the Upper Paleolithic period, a long-term demographic equilibrium shifted in the direction of excess births. This has led to the pattern of exponential growth that is by far the most important adaptive challenge modern humans face.  Bioarchaeological data provide a number of insights into the causes of this growth. They suggest that factors influencing the mortality rates of young women are key to understanding human demographic evolution.



Blood sugar break



Jim Sidanius    UCLA Psychology   sidanius@psych.ucla.edu

The Interactive Nature of Patriarchy and Arbitrary-set Hierarchy:  

The Dynamics of Sexism and Racism from An Evolutionary and Social Dominance Perspective


Abstract. Using evolutionary psychology and social dominance theory (SDT) as the theoretical frameworks, this presentation will suggest that we re-think the problem of prejudice and discrimination in a number of specific ways.  This re-thinking includes: a) fully appreciating the fact that the problems of prejudice and discrimination are most probably not primarily a question of intergroup antipathy, b) possibly accepting the fact that discrimination and intergroup oppression is intimately associated with the apparently ubiquitous tendency for human social systems to form and maintain group-based social hierarchies, c) fully embracing the necessity of understanding the problem of discrimination and intergroup conflict using multiple levels of analysis, and even theorizing about the intersections among these levels of analysis, and d) accepting the fact that the some of the essential dynamics of discrimination and prejudice might be qualitatively different, depending upon the targets of that discrimination. Thus, the subordinate-male-target hypothesis within SDT suggests that, while related to one another, sexism is a qualitatively different phenomenon than racism. 



Self-funded dinner at Ming Dynasty

(Ming Dynasty 805-968-1308, 290 Storke Road, at the intersection of Storke and Hollister in Goleta. In the unlikely event you are coming from 101, take Storke exit North of UCSB).


Cosponsored by the UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology and the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture. This event is organized as a working seminar for faculty and graduate students. For more information, please contact Leda Cosmides or John Tooby or call 805-893-8720.


UCLA and UCSB will hold a Saturday conference once a quarter, alternating between the two campuses. This one, the first in 2002-2003, will be in the UCSB University Center, Harbor Room (downstairs). 


Map of the UCSB campus (University Center is at coordinate F3)


There may be car pools coming from UCLA; ask Alan Fiske and Clark Barrett.



Take 101 North toward Santa Barbara. There is a double exit (Patterson; then 217 UCSB / Airport). Take the 217 UCSB exit. Follow the signs to campus (when road forks, take the left fork)


When you come into UCSB from 217, there is a UCSB gate & kiosk. Stop there to get a campus map. Turn left onto Lagoon Road (ocean on your left), then RIGHT onto Ucen road, and park in one of the lots.



Parking is free on Saturdays EXCEPT for spaces that are marked "Enforced 24 hours". The closest lot is #3 (but this has a number of illegal spaces, so be careful). Other close lots are #7, 9, and 4.  See map for lot location.