And don’t miss the last one in March: Harnessing the social lives of microbes to improve human health, Thursday, March 25th at 12pm EDT/17:00 CET

See the website at ClubEvMed.org for full details

The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West became psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous

Thursday, April 1st at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

cover of Joseph Henrich's book, The Weirdest People in the World

Join us for a conversation with Joe Henrich, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Over the last few decades, a growing body of research has revealed not only substantial global variation along several important psychological dimensions, but also that people from societies that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) are particularly unusual, often anchoring the ends of global psychological distributions. To explain these patterns, I’ll first show how the most fundamental human institutions—those governing marriage and the family—influence our motivations, perceptions, intuitions and emotions. Then, to explain the peculiar trajectory of European societies over the last two millennium, I lay out how one particular branch of Christianity systematically dismantled the intensive kin-based institutions in much of Latin Christendom, thereby altering people’s psychology and opening the door to the proliferation of new institutional forms, including voluntary associations (charter towns, universities and guilds), impersonal markets, individualistic religions and representative governments. In light of these findings, I close by arguing that the anthropological, psychological and economic sciences should transform into a unified evolutionary approach that considers not only how human nature influences our behavior and societies but also how the resulting institutions, technologies and languages subsequently shape our minds.

After the talk, perspectives on how the research applies in a clinical setting will be presented by physician Neal Baer, Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard. Attendees are encouraged to read Schulz et al. 2019, “The Church, intensive kinship, and global psychological variation.” Sign up here for the meeting link.

Causes and consequences of fear of childbirth

Monday, April 5th at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

Zaneta Thayer headshot

Join us for a conversation with Zaneta Thayer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth College. Childbirth is an essential component of reproduction. And yet, many individuals experience fear of childbirth (FOC), defined as anxiety about birth that impairs an individual’s daily functioning and wellbeing. Mild to moderate FOC has been previously described as a potential adaptation for humans to seek assistance during labor and delivery. However, FOC exists on a spectrum, and individuals with high FOC are known to be more likely to request cesarean and other forms of medical intervention in order to avoid pain and maintain a sense of control. In this talk, I will expand on what is known about the causes of FOC, as well as presently underappreciated impacts of FOC on maternal and child health across the perinatal period. Using data collected from pregnant persons living in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, I will discuss how pandemic-related restrictions on birth environments have amplified FOC and associations between FOC and gestation length, postpartum depression, and breastfeeding outcomes. This work suggests that promoting prenatal care and birth environments that facilitate patient-provider trust, continuous labor support, and maternal self-efficacy could reduce FOC. Sign up here for the meeting link.

Die young, live fast: is accelerated reproduction an adaptive response to early life adversity in wild baboons?

Wednesday, April 21st at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

a picture of a baboon with its young

Join us for a conversation with Elizabeth Archie, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, and Chelsea Weibel, PhD Student at the University of Notre Dame. If an individual can anticipate an early death, should they also “live fast”? Fast reproduction is often proposed to be an adaptive response to harsh conditions in early life because early adversity predicts shorter lifespans. Individuals who speed up reproduction after experiencing early adversity might therefore have higher fitness than those who do not. Using long-term data on natural population of baboons in Amboseli, Kenya, we tested if fast reproduction offers lifetime fitness advantages to females. Contrary to several influential hypotheses, females who experienced early adversity did not improve their fitness if they sped up reproduction. Our results raise doubts that accelerated reproduction is an adaptive response to early adversity in long lived, slow-reproducing species. Sign up here for the meeting link.

Postdoc Spotlight

Thursday, April 29th at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

We are accepting nominations through Wednesday, March 31st. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else to present a 12-minute talk at Club EvMed, please fill out this form.