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Information on the Shuar:
Language: Jivaro, also some Spanish
Population: 40,000
Government: Democratically elected Federation
Subsistence: horticulture, hunting, gathering
Religion: Shamanism, some Christians

Shuar house: photo by Eric Schneider
Shuar man digging nigua larvae out with a thorn
Shuar woman making chicha
(premasticated manioc-based beer)
Toucan feathers are used for decoration


Anger research among an Amazonian lowland population: the Shuar

The Shuar are Jivaroan speaking people indigenous to the Amazonas region of Ecuador.  Traditionally, Shuar were forager-horticulturalists who hunted, fished, and engaged in swidden horticulture for a livelihood. Traditionally, Shuar lived in scattered households across the Upano River Valley, between the eastern Andean foothills and the Cutucu range. Early in the twentieth century, introduction of firearms allowed them to expand eastward across the Cutucu into the territory of the neighboring Achuar, so that Shuar now live on both sides of the Cutucu (Karsten 1935; Descola 1996; Rubenstein 2001). Today many Shuar are organized under the Shuar Federation which acts in many ways as an autonomous government for the Shuar territories.

Ancestrally, the Shuar were part of the larger Jivaro people who were highly skilled warriors and headhunters. Though the practice of shrinking human heads disappeared in the early 20th century (Karsten 1935), blood revenge and intertribal feuding are still part of the Shuar culture. Even though their weapons were less sophisticated than their enemies, the Shuar famously repelled both the Incas and the Spaniards.

The Shuar field site was established by Larry Sugiyama almost ten years ago and has been opened to collaborative anthropologists at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at UC Santa Barbara.

Ongoing projects include:
    1). The role of physical strength in anger among men and women.
    2). Mapping the computational design of anger-based arguments.
    3). Identifying common causes of anger: intentionality and cost/benefit ratios.
    4). A cross-cultural analysis of latent and explicit meanings of insults and their relation to cultural norms and values.

Papers that have resulted from this collaboration:

Sell, A., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Lim, J., Krauss. A., & L. Sugiyama.  Anger and welfare trade-off ratios: Mapping the computational architecture of a recalibrational emotion system in four countries. In prep.

Presentations that have resulted from this collaboration:

“Formidability and the logic of anger.” UQ Evolutionary Psychology Group, University of Queensland. Brisbane, Australia, May. 2012.

“Understanding anger in the context of mental health.” Psychiatric Grand Rounds, Cottage Health System. Santa Barbara, California, Feb. 2010.

"The evolutionary psychology of human anger." Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology Pre–Conference. Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 2010.


Aaron Sell
School of Criminology
Griffith University, Mount Gravatt
176 Messines Ridge Road
Mount Gravatt, QLD, 4121


Julian Lim
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA


Larry Sugiyama
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of Oregon

(email, website)

Ruby Fried
Research Assistant
Department of Anthropology
University of Oregon

Melissa Liebert
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Oregon

Felicia Madimenos
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Oregon

(email, website)

Aaron Blackwell
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Oregon


Descola P. 1996. The spears of twilight: life and death in the Amazon Jungle. New York: New Press.

Karsten R. 1935. The head-hunters of western Amazonas: the life and culture of the Jibaro Indians of eastern Ecuador and Peru. Helsingfors, Helsinki, Finland: Societas Scientiarum.

Rubenstein S. 2001. Colonialism, the Shuar Federation, and the Ecuadorian state. Environment and planning D-Society & Space 19:263–293.