Human behavioral ecology

Human behavioral ecology

Human behavioral ecology (HBE) or human evolutionary ecology applies the principles of evolutionary theory and optimization to the study of human behavioral and cultural diversity. HBE examines the adaptive design of traits, behaviors, and life histories of humans in an ecological context. One aim of modern human behavioral ecology is to determine how ecological and social factors influence and shape behavioral flexibility within and between human populations. Among other things, HBE attempts to explain variation in human behavior as adaptive solutions to the competing life-history demands of growth, development, reproduction, parental care, and mate acquisition. HBE overlaps with evolutionary psychology, human or cultural ecology, and decision theory. It is most prominent in disciplines such as anthropology and psychology where human evolution is considered relevant for a holistic understanding of human behavior or in economics where self-interest, methodological individualism, and maximization are key elements in modeling behavior[dubious – discuss]. It has been resisted in fields such as sociology and political science where the findings on human evolution are either ignored or regarded as irrelevant. Human behavioral ecology rests upon a foundation of evolutionary theory. This includes aspects of both general evolutionary theory and established middle-level evolutionary theories, as well. Aspects of general evolutionary theory include: Natural selection, the process by which individual organisms with favorable traits are more likely to survive and reproduce. Sexual selection, the theory that competition for mates between individuals of the same sex results in differential mating and reproduction. Kin selection, the changes in gene frequency across generations that are driven at least in part by interactions between related individuals, and Inclusive fitness, the sum of an in ividual's own reproductive success, (natural and sexual selection), plus the effects the individual's actions have on the reproductive success of that individual's kin, (kin selection). Middle-level evolutionary theories used in HBE include: The theory of parental investment, which predicts that the sex making the largest investment in lactation, nurturing and protecting offspring will be more discriminating in mating and that the sex that invests less in offspring will compete for access to the higher investing sex. Parent-offspring conflict, which predicts that because the genetic interests of parents and offspring are not identical, offspring will be selected to manipulate their parents in order to ensure higher investment, and that, conversely, parents will be selected to manipulate their offspring. The theory of reciprocal altruism, a form of altruism in which one organism provides a benefit to another in the expectation of future reciprocation. The Trivers–Willard hypothesis, which proposes that parents should invest more in the sex that gives them the greatest reproductive payoff (grandchildren) with increasing or marginal investment. r/K selection theory, which, in ecology, relates to the selection of traits in organisms that allow success in particular environments. r-selected species - in unstable or unpredictable environments - produce many offspring, any individual one of which is unlikely to survive to adulthood, while K-selected species - in stable or predictable environments - invest more heavily in fewer offspring, each of which has a better chance of surviving to adulthood. Evolutionary game theory, the application of population genetics-inspired models of change in gene frequency in populations to game theory. Evolutionary stable strategy, which refers to a strategy, which if adopted by a population, cannot be invaded by any competing alternative strategy.