Human behavioral ecology and the individual in society
I report on three studies in the field of human behavioral ecology (HBE); two related studies from the author's research in Beijing, China; and one from research by a team led by Bruce Winterhalder in Peru. Chapter Two uses experimental economic games to investigate prosociality among vendors in a Beijing marketplace. Near 50% modal offers in the dictator and ultimatum games suggest that vendors' decisions were motivated, in part, by concern for the impacts on their partners; a finding that mirrors research results from other societies. Chapter Three is an ethnographic investigation of prosociality among these same vendors, illustrating that fairness, equality, and concern for others are not extinguished by economic competition between vendors. And Chapter Four investigates the use of mixed-effects modeling for analysis of time allocation data, showing that results are improved by accounting for grouping structure in the data. The underlying theme of this dissertation is an illustration of the evolving contribution of HBE to the anthropology of human behavior and culture. An important point is that behavioral ecologists practice a unique mix of methods, well-situating them for pursuing the highest goals of scientific anthropology. These methods include rigorous theory-driven modeling, well-crafted data collection instruments, traditional anthropological fieldwork, and sophisticated statistical analysis. Behavioral ecologists are sometimes misunderstood as narrowly focused on individual decision-making-- unconcerned with higher-order social and cultural structures. A broader goal of this dissertation is to demonstrate that HBE provides insight into the relationship between individual human behavior and facets of social and cultural structure.