What is Human Behavioral Ecology?
Two brief explanations of the goals and concepts of
human behavioral ecology
Evolutionary ecology studies "evolution and adaptive design in ecological context." As a distinct field, evolutionary ecology emerged in the 1960s with the work of Charnov and Orians, Hutchinson, Lack, MacArthur and Pianka, MacArthur and Levins, MacArthur, Orians, and others. Textbooks on evolutionary ecology appeared in the 1970s, covering topics from the structural and behavioral traits of organisms to the organization of ecological communities. Evolutionary ecology shares fuzzy boundaries with evolutionary genetics, community ecology, animal behavior, and decision theory. When applied to the analysis of behavior, evolutionary ecology is conventionally termed "behavioral ecology." Behavioral analyses have been an integral element of evolutionary ecology from the beginning, treating topics such as foraging strategies, mating systems, and spatial organization and competition. The first textbooks on behavioral ecology appeared in late 1970s and early 1980s. There now is a voluminous literature, including monograph series, dedicated journals (e.g., Evolutionary Ecology, and Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology), and a widely read, state-of-the-art series of volumes, each edition with a new set of papers. Human behavioral ecology applies evolutionary ecology models and concepts to the study of human behavioral diversity. HBE began in the mid-1970s with a small set of interpretive papers and independent dissertation projects. Initially centered on foraging theory and hunter-gatherer studies, HBE has expanded over the last 25 years to encompass diverse topics and subsistence systems.
from Winterhalder, B., and E.A. Smith. 2000. Analyzing adaptive strategies: Human behavioral ecology at twenty-five. Evolutionary Anthropology 9: 51-72.
The aim of modern human behavioural ecology is to determine how ecological and social factors affect behavioral variability within and between populations. In one sense its hypotheses are viewed as an alternative to the more traditional anthropological belief in a unspecified force of "cultural" determination. In another sense, behavioural ecological anthropology can be seen as adding the study of function to investigations of causation, development and historical constraints that were already well established in the social sciences.
from Borgerhoff Mulder, M. 1991. Human behavioral ecology. In Behavioral Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach, J. R. Krebs and N. B. Davies, eds., pp. 69-98. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific.
Last modified: 11-21-03
by Kermyt G. Anderson