Currently, the diverse strands of our work run in two major directions that will define future effort. One concerns attention and arousal regulation as a nexus for biocultural construction of experience, linked in to a more general interest in state regulatory systems. Thus, such regulation represents an important site for investigation into experience, its variation and its mediators or moderators. Attentional and arousal-regulating systems determine what is attended to, and with what intensity, valence, frequency, and duration. In other words, they constitute the bases of knowledge and affect, and the ontogeny of such systems likely provides a final common pathway for socialization. The reactivity paradigm is a heuristic biological measure that reflects attentional states and spurs conceptualization and investigation of the complex interface between person and context. The Center for Developmental Epidemiology provides, among other things, the opportunity to combine psychobiological measures from the Laboratory with those of developmental behavioral genetics (Lyndon Eaves et al., University of Virginia) and developmental epidemiology (Adrian Angold and Jane Costello, Duke) in the study of mental health. This collaboration will allow us to conceptually and empirically explore the intersection of physiology, genetics, and experience (in relation to class, ethnicity, family dynamics) in developmental processes relating to psychobehavioral well-being. This work will provide a strong empirical foundation for thinking through biosocial processes underlying psychosocial development in general. In anthropological terms, what we are interested in is the socialization of affect, attention, and state-regulatory systems.
A second direction concerns life history and
life span processes. Much of our work will continue to take a comparative
biocultural, developmental perspective to human biology, reproductive
ecology, and dimensions of human adaptation. Concurrently, we wish to
address these major theoretical problems in the field. First, biological
anthropology, especially human biology, has long since outgrown the "adaptability"
paradigm, which was undertheorized anyway. The field needs a set of integrative
models that provide a springboard for launching future creative work.
Second, if we think of theoretical work as a series of experiments about
explanatory and predictive power of a conceptual model (with its assumptions
and internal logic) then we must conclude that dual inheritance models
in biocultural coevolutionary theory have failed, for they have not generated
sets of new questions and empirical work that is the hallmark of successful
theory. Therefore, we need to reconsider the underpinnings of such theory
and start from a different approach. An adaptationist account of the ontogenetic
bases of individual variation in life histories is conspicuously lacking.
Yet it seems that only a developmental approach will explain such variation.
We would like to formulate a unified biocultural model of human development
as a way to radically revise life history theory. Many of the concepts
and much of the data are in place to support such an enterprise, which
would represent an alternative to dual inheritance models of biocultural
Methods | Publications | Opportunities for Collaboration
Last Updated February 20, 1999