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Founding father of gene-culture theory to speak at ASU

October 17, 2008

The “Origins of Human Uniqueness” lecture series launches this month with a special presentation by Robert Boyd. Sponsored by ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity and the Institute of Human Origins, Boyd will discuss “How Culture Transformed Human Evolution” at 4 p.m., Oct. 20, in room 60 of the College of Design North.

Robert Boyd has been called the “theoretical father” of gene-culture coevolution (dual-inheritance). His book with Peter J. Richerson, Culture and the Evolutionary Process, is considered a seminal tome on the subject and won the 1989 Staley Prize.

A researcher at the top of his field, Boyd uses mathematical modeling tools from population biology and empirical work drawn from experimental economics and anthropological field studies to make fresh inroads into the study of human behavior and adaptation. His research focuses on the evolution of the psychological capacities that create human culture, and on the consequences of cultural transmission for human evolution. He explains, “Unlike other organisms, humans acquire a rich body of information from others by teaching, imitation and other forms of social learning, and this culturally transmitted information strongly influences human behavior. Culture is an essential part of human adaptation, and as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion or thick enamel on our molars.”

Boyd is an anthropology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-directs the MacArthur Research Network on the Nature and Origin of Preferences.