Social Networks in Small Scale Societies

February 25th-26th, 2011

Coren Apicella and Nicholas Christakis are hosting a two-day exploratory seminar, sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, to discuss the possibility of a large, collaborative, cross-cultural research effort aimed at mapping the social networks of traditional populations. The ultimate goal of this research project will be to better understand the extent to which social networks of traditional populations resemble the social networks of Western populations; whether cross-cultural differences can be understood as responses to local geographic, cultural, and economic conditions; and whether there is something deeply fundamental about the structure of social networks that humans form. The conference will focus on the feasibility of collecting such social network data in a number of traditional populations, with emphasis on how to reliably identify individual relationships subject to local constraints, whilst still maintaining comparability across different populations.

Conference Schedule

Friday February 25th, 2011

9:00-9:40 – Morning Reception

Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler
Introduction and Welcome

  • How do we measure social networks in small-scale societies?
  • Does network structure and function vary cross-culturally?
  • What does any such variation mean for the inhabitants?

James Fowler & Nicholas Christakis
Overview of Social Networks and Their Analysis

Derek Stafford
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Introducing the Netriks Program and Methods: Picture-Based Cross-Identification in Name Generators

Jessica Perkins
Gathering Sociocentric Network Data in Semi-Rural Uganda: A Collaborative Experience

11:10-11:20 – Short Break

Coren Apicella
Using Traditional Populations to Understand Social Networks: Lessons from Hadza Hunter-Gatherers

11:45- 12:10
Holly Baker Shakya
Two Ethnic Groups of Nepal: The Lhopas of Upper Mustang and the Tharu of the Terai

Russell D. Greaves
Kin-based vs. Behavior-based Networks: Foragers’ Subsistence Interactions with Family and Non-kin in an Impoverished Environment

Group Discussion

1:00-2:00 – LUNCH

Joseph Henrich
On the Nature of Cultural Transmission Networks: Evidence from Fijian villages for Adaptive Learning Biases

Chris von Rueden
Cooperation and Conflict Networks Among the Tsimane Horticulturalists of Bolivia

Paul Hooper
The structure of Tsimane’ food sharing networks

Brian Wood
Food Sharing Preferences Among Hadza Hunter-Gatherers

–Short Break–

Bret A. Beheim
Ethnographic Network Analysis in Hokkaido, Japan

Karen Kramer
Scales of Social Interaction and Cooperation Among Maya Subsistence Agriculturalists

Michael Alvard
Social Networks in Two Small-Scale Societies: Lamalera, Indonesia and San Sauveur, Commonwealth of Dominica

Robin Dunbar

Group Discussion

7:00 pm – DINNER – Sandrine’s Bistro

Saturday February 26th, 2011

9:00-9:40 – Morning Reception

Coren Apicella & Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler
Setting an agenda for a possible collaborative project

Joseph Henrich
The Dos and Don’ts of Running a Collaborative Project

Group Discussion

12:30-1:30 – LUNCH


Michael Alvard
I am a socio-cultural anthropologist who uses evolutionary theory to learn about human behavior. I’m interested in the evolution of cooperation and human sociality.

Coren Apicella
I am a biological anthropologist currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow in Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. I study both hunter-gatherers and Westerners to explore both proximate and ultimate origins of human preferences and decision-making faculties.

Bret Beheim
I study the ecology and evolution of culture, currently as a PhD candidate at UC Davis. My work is situated at the intersection of formal Darwinian models of cultural dynamics and evolution and empirical studies of patterns of behavioral and cultural variation, particularly in East Asia. Currently I am developing a dissertation project on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido that seeks to test models of social learning by measuring heritable cultural variants through ego-centric networks.

Nicholas Christakis is a physician and social scientist who is a Professor in the Departments of Sociology, of Medicine, and of Health Care Policy at Harvard University. He has conducted research at the intersection of the natural and social sciences for nearly 20 years. Recently, he has been particularly interested in the spread of health behaviors and economic decisions in a variety of types of social networks, and has been examining the mathematical, biological, and social rules that govern how human social networks form and operate.

Robin Dunbar
My principal interest lies in understanding mammalian (and hence human) social evolution. To this end, my research focuses on the structure and dynamics of social networks and community size in primates and modern humans, and in the time and cognitive constraints that limit these. I am a professor at Oxford University.

James Fowler
I am a Professor in the School of Medicine and the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. My work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences. His primary areas of research are social networks, behavioral economics, evolutionary game theory, political participation, cooperation, and genopolitics (the study of the genetic basis of political behavior).

Russell Greaves
My ethnographic experience includes long-term research with a group of South American foragers, and additional fieldwork with Maya agriculturalists of Mexico, and pastoral and agricultural Native American populations of the US Southwest. I am interested in comparative hunter-gatherer subsistence, technology, and social organization in response to environmental variation. I also have archaeological experience in the western US, focused on subsistence, technology, and the geological investigation of past environments.

Joseph Henrich
Dr. Henrich holds the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution at the University of British Columbia, where he’s a professor in both Economics and Psychology. His theoretical work focuses on how natural selection has shaped human learning and how this in turn influences cultural evolution, as on culture-gene coevolution. Methodologically, his research synthesizes experimental and analytical tools drawn from behavioural economics and psychology with in-depth quantitative ethnography, and has performed long-term fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon, rural Chile, and in Fiji.

Paul Hooper is a graduate student in Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. He conducts ethnographic fieldwork with the Tsimane’, an indigenous Amazonian population. His research utilizes mathematical models (from life history theory and game theory) to examine the evolution of human demography and social organization.

Karen Kramer
My research pursuits include biodemography, comparative life history, cooperative breeding, household economics, intergenerational transfers and the evolution of human juvenility. My empirical focus is in traditional small-scale populations. I have on going research projects with the Pumé, a group of South American foragers, the Maya, Mexican subsistence agriculturalists, and the Tanala, horticulturalists from highland Madagascar. The longitudinal data bases collected during these projects include individual-level demographic, reproductive history, time allocation, health and economic information.

Chris von Rueden
I am an anthropologist and work with the Tsimane horticulturalists of Bolivia, among whom I have collected social network data on kinship, cooperative partnerships, and conflicts. I am versed in field methods for generating behavioral data, whether via self-report, peer-report, or observation. I am familiar with the basics of social network analysis, through coursework on the subject and the use of UCINet software.

Holly Shakya
I am a doctoral student of global health at UCSD. My primary focus is on how social contexts, particularly social networks and culture, influence health outcomes. My international experience is in Nepal, where I have worked and traveled extensively.

Derek Stafford
Derek Stafford is a PhD Candidate from the Political Science Department at the University of Michigan. His dissertation is the relationship between power-asymmetries and cooperative behavior. For this work, Derek led the Rural Social Networks Study (RSNS1) to collect social network data and apply experimental economics procedures to 32 separate communities in a Central American country.

Sae Takada
Sae Takada is a fifth year MD-PhD student studying health policy and medical sociology. Her research interests are the impacts of social capital and social networks on health outcomes in resource-poor settings, and health-related stigma.

Brian Wood
I am a biological anthropologist, and have conducted extensive fieldwork with Hadza hunter-gatherers of northern Tanzania, focusing upon male food production, food sharing, kinship, residential organization, and social networks.