Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thinking about life history theory

Hey everyone,
Great discussion on Tuesday. Please don't be shy about posting here and a good number of you need to come up with one more question! Note that if you click directly on the title of a post on the blog archive on the sidebar to the right it displays the post and all the comments on the same page.

A couple of things to think about:
In the introduction of the Hill and Kaplan paper they state the following: “Our goal here is to show how life history theory and anthropology can be combined to organize social science research on the major demographic trends that will affect standards of living, crowding, urbanization, conflict and warfare, and the environment of the next century”
What do you think of this view? Can life history theory really be employed in such a way that it will help social scientists address such complicated issues?
At this point it is probably obvious (from class) that I favor the possibility that individual choices that affect the life history budget - or how we allocate energy from growth (this includes school and other forms of skill development) and reproduction have cascading effects to higher orders of social organization and are connected to major demographic trends. The connections here are difficult to make at times and I encourage you to be skeptical of this view.

On page 406 they say: "The diversity of life histories is presumably due to the fact that the shape of the relationships between investments and outcomes varies ecologically." If this is true, what can we say about the ecologies where humans evolved? (this is answered in the paper). or more simply, what do they mean by this?

On Thursday we will begin with just a bit more of a summary of life history theory in general and then we'll talk in depthly about the Hill and Kaplan paper. We'll probably discuss the quantity-quality tradeoff and embodied capital but please come prepared with your own discussion questions and we'll see where things go.
See you tomorrow,
Oskar

4 comments:

dodegard said...

In the model for the evolution of the long human life span (p. 412) is there room for a skill other than food that could be needed for long periods of training and learning?

Molly said...

Hill and Kaplan state: "Our goal here is to show how life history theory and anthropology can be combined to
organize social science research on the major demographic trends that will affect
standards of living, crowding, urbanization, conflict and warfare, and the environment
of the next century?" and Oskar poses:
"What do you think of this view? Can life history theory really be employed in such a way
that it will help social scientists address such complicated issues?"
At this point in my research I am also convinced of the potential application of life history theory to anumber of current social science questions or question concerning humans, interpersonal behaviors, and environments. Hurtado, Lambourne, Hill, and Kessler present a compelling study in Human Nature 2006 17(2):129-154. I found this a compelling article and relevant to your class because (1)the operationalization of concepts interesting to social science research into variables that directly inform on maternal behavior and resulting child health; and (2) the applicability of the model to various social, economic, and political groups. Some early critism, maybe too strong a word rather observations particularly pointed out by Voland in Annual Reivew of Anthropology in 1998 27:347-374, concerns the application of life history theory by anthropologist to foraging socieities but little application to non foraging societies. I'll be interested to see your thoughts and comments to Oskar's posed questions.

Kenneth Letendre said...

On page 406, the authors state "the optimal amount of investment per offspring is independent of parental income, but total parental resources divided by optimal resource investment per offspring determines lifetime fertility."
What is the basis for this prediction? Is the only variation in offspring quality then due to extrinsic mortality?

Human macroecology admin said...

For another perspective on the use of life history theory in anthropology you may want to look at the course description and syllabus of James Holand Jones, a professor at Stanford:
http://www.stanford.edu/class/anthsci155/
This will give you another view on the topics and techniques that a practicing life history theoretician thinks are important. Dr. Jones has very good technical skills and is interested in stochastic modeling as well.

 
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