In recent years it has become evident that genetic data can provide evidence about aspects of human social behavior. But so far there have been few studies on this topic. One reason for this neglect is that there are nonlinear relationships among the various behavioral factors that can influence patterns of relatedness, such as marriage rules, migration, language drift and historical changes in modes of production. This Human and Social Dynamics project will attempt to systematically analyze the relative magnitude of these parameters and to assess their effects. While most current research focuses on genetic structure at the population level, this project will use non-coding genetic markers to study the emergence of patterns of relatedness among individuals within communities. Results from previous research show that a change in mode of production (from tribal horticulture to irrigated rice production) leaves clear traces in the genetic patterns of small Balinese communities. This project will look for comparable genetic signatures in neighboring populations. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the major variables that affect patterns of relatedness among human groups. A second goal is to explore whether patterns of relatedness are correlated with people's willingness to cooperate with various categories of persons (such as males and females, kin and nonkin, within and between groups). In this way the researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the historical development of human social structures and their possible consequences for sociality. To address these questions, the project will collect DNA from communities in Indonesia and the Pacific where good archaeological data on the age and relatedness of settlements exists which can be used to test assumptions about migrations and population histories based on genetics. Statistical analysis of the genetic data will be supplemented with computer simulations because standard population genetics models assume that the dynamics have reached equilibrium, an unwarrantable assumption for the short time spans of concern here. The project's SAIL agent-based modeling platform will be enhanced to explore the effects of behavioral parameters affecting genetic population structure, in particular the ways in which patterns of relatedness unfold over time spans in the range of 100-10,000 years.

Broader impacts: This project will result in the creation of new analytical tools, both statistical and computational, to investigate genetic population structure at the fine-grained level of resolution provided by microsatellites. It will also provide a computational framework for integrating genetic analysis with models of language evolution, and make all of these tools publicly available. These tools will open new possibilities for the empirical study of fundamental anthropological questions. The broader impacts of the project will also include training for undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in a wide array of theoretical and experimental skills. The project will utilize three existing IGERT programs at Arizona, the Santa Fe Institute REU summer program, and the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program to identify and support under-represented minorities in laboratory research and summer schools. In addition, a video about the project will be produced by a leading British film-maker.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Deborah Winslow
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University of Arizona
United States
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