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Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology
Seamus Decker

sdecker@emory.edu

Areas of Interest
Evolutionary theory of sociality; cultural models, motivation, and goals; evolutionary psychology; marketing; socioendocrinology; status pursuit, social networks, friendship, and cooperation; and life-history strategies.

Current Research
Psychobiological stress and social life in a rural compared to an urban community in Botswana.

Since coming to Emory as a Ph.D. student in 1993, I've been exceptionally lucky to work in the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology. The research which Dr. Worthman, Dr. Stallings, and the other graduate students and staff conduct at LCHB is some of the most exciting in anthropology. It has been the best experience of my life to work with and learn with the other LCHB members, and I look forward to the day when I can pass on what I have learned as a professor of biocultural anthropology.

I've also been lucky to have the support of Dr. Worthman as my advisor and access to LCHB to conduct my Dissertation research, a comparison of stress and social life among rural and urban Batswana men.

Lephephe (Pop 531) is about 150km from the nearest town or paved road, and lacks many modern conveniences, such as electricity, shops, and running water. Most villagers are subsistence farmers, and Tswana traditions of kinship, reciprocity, and ancestor reverence persist more than in the bustling capital city of Gaborone (Pop 133,000), which was my other research site.

The purpose of the study, is to examine the hypothesis that urban life is more stressful than agrarian life, because Capitalist development causes a disintegration of traditional social support, and meaning. I have finished radioimmunoassay analyses for cortisol in 969 saliva samples which I collected from 30 rural, and 35 urban men in 1998. I also have about 200-hours of interview data on life-history, temperament, depressive-symptoms, social networks, affluence, and cultural models which I am currently analyzing. I have yet to finish the statistical analyses which will reveal whether urban men have higher salivary cortisol levels than rural men, but I have completed a statistical comparison of level of depressive symptoms among rural and urban men.

Interestingly, it appears that rural men report significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms (LDS). The best-fitting regression model was determined using a backwards stepwise multi-variate linear regression procedure with a 0.05 significance level for removal and re-entry. Results indicate that LDS associates positively with the following four factors: residence in the rural village (F=5.86, P=0.02, R2=0.113); father-absence prior to age 13-years (F=4.53, P=0.04, R2=0.087); perceptions of more frequent social stressors (F=4.79, P=0.03, R2=0.092); and unemployment or economic-dependency (F=9.05, P=0.001, R2=0.174). Overall the model is highly statistically significant P(F>24.239) with F~F4,52=0.001, with an R2=0.435. Age, educational attainment, gross yearly income, and marital status do not associate in a clear linear fashion with LDS. My tentative interpretation of this finding is that the simple awareness of the amenties, and diversity of urban life, is sufficient to create unattainable needs in the residents of Lephephe. This incongruity between needs, and means, may account for higher LDS among rural men than among urban men. This finding suggests that, even in the absence of material cultural changes, the impact of Capitalist-development and marketing on cultural models is tremendously important in even the most remote areas of our planet. I will be using the data on life-history, temperament, depressive-symptoms, social networks, affluence, and cultural models in further multi-variate and qualitative analyses to try to determine which social, or cognitive differences between urban and rural men may account for this difference in LDS. Furthermore, in the next few weeks, I will be subjecting the cortisol and behavioral observational data to a repeated-measures, multi-variate analysis, to determine whether urban and rural men differ significantly in level of daily stress-response, or stress-related experiences (fights, arguments, negative mood, alcohol or tobacco consumption).

These preliminary results indicate that depression and concomitant costs in morbidity, mortality, health-care, and lowered productivity may be decreased through policy changes in Botswana. First, more stringent paternity-laws, and/or social-welfare incentives for fathers to play an active and supportive role in the raising their children would enrich the development of future generations of Batswana children. Second, creation of more unskilled labor jobs would provide uneducated people with increased opportunities for creative-outlet, and economic self-sufficiency as the Batswana economy becomes increasingly dominated by wage-labor . Third, reformation of labor laws relating to unskilled workers such as herdboys, laborers, and servants would alleviate the gross economic inequalities and exploitation of Batswana poor by the tiny affluent class. Fourth, programs to accelerate the economic development of rural areas would rebalance Botswana's economic growth away from the current urban-focus which contributes to father-absenteeism, status incongruity, and wage-dependency. I am excited at the possibilities which cross-cultural biocultural research offers to policymakers, and development workers in their efforts to improve the human condition.

Beyond my experiences with LCHB, it has been a great pleasure to study anthropology at Emory, because my desire to pursue an intergration of biological and cultural anthropology has been nurtured, and encouraged by all the faculty. I've sought integrative foundations for concepts from courses as different as Culture and Power, Evolutionary Process, Culture and Mind, and Developmental Biology. I am convinced that biological and cultural anthropology can be integrated meaningfully into a more complete understanding of human nature and diversity. I feel incredibly fortunate to be starting my career near the beginning of a multidisciplinary revolution in anthropology, and behavioral sciences in general. I am excited at the answers and questions which will be revealed by the months of analyses, and writing ahead of me. But I am even more excited at the idea of going on to teach biocultural anthropology, and to working as an integrator of biological and cultural anthropology.

Education
1997-1998 National Institute of Development Research and Documentation, Botswana, University of Botswana, research affiliate, 12-97 to 6-98.
1993-99 Ph.D., Anthropology, Emory University. Advisor: Carol M. Worthman; Degree expected May, 1999. Concentrations: rural-urban and individual variation in social life, status expectations, consumer and work aspirations, and stress; relations between social experience, stress process, mental and physical health, and longevity; human ontogenetic processes and psychobiological adaptation; evolution of social cooperation; Southern African culture area. GPA 3.8.
1991-1993 M.A. Anthropology, University of Missouri, Columbia. Advisor: Mark V. Flinn; Degree awarded August, 1993 Concentrations: evolutionary and biocultural theory; hormonal stress response; social dominance theory; Caribbean culture area. GPA 3.8.
1986-1991 B.A. Anthropology, University of Missouri, Columbia. Minors in History and Geology. GPA 3.3.

Awards and Funding
1997-1998 National Science Foundation, Physical Anthropology Section, Dissertation Enhancement Grant for research on stress in rural and urban communities in Botswana ($11,094).
1995-1997 Academy for Educational Development NSEP Graduate International Fellowship for language training in Botswana ($22,300).
1994 Sigma Xi ($400). Grant-in-Aid of Research for laboratory expenses.
1993-1999 Emory University Graduate Fellowship. Tuition and stipend ($23,000/year).
1994 Emory Graduate Training Award ($1000) for ligand laboratory training.
1993 Mellon Fund Graduate Award ($1000) for research travel.
1993 Superior Graduate Achievement Award, University of Missouri, Columbia.
1993 Teaching Assistant, "Cultural Anthropology," University of Missouri, Columbia. Tuition and stipend ($3,000).
1992 Laboratory assistant, National Science Foundation Grant, Mark V. Flinn P.I., (Ligand Assay Laboratory, Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). Tuition and stipend ($4,500).
1992 Ethnographic Field Assistant, National Science Foundation Grant, Mark Flinn P.I., (Petite Soufriere, Commonwealth of Dominica). Tuition and stipend ($2800).
1991-92 Teaching Assistant, "Monkeys, Apes and Humans," University of Missouri, Columbia. Tuition and stipend ($6,000).
1988-1991 Dean's Honor Roll, Missouri University, Warrensburg and Columbia

Publications
in preparation Decker, S. Middle-class dreams, third-world realities: Consumerism, work status, and psychobiological stress among adult male Batswana. To be submitted to Journal of Marketing.
1999 Decker, S. Depressive symptoms, unemployment, and father-absence: A comparison of (submitted) rural and urban Batswana men. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Columbus, Ohio.
1998 Decker, S. "Social stress in rural Batswana: Preliminary findings." an invited paper at the University of Botswana, NIR.
1998 Decker, S. "Stress, power and health: A study of a Dominican village." an invited paper at the University of Botswana, NIR.
1997 Flinn, M.V., C. Baerwald, S. Decker, and B. England. "Evolutionary functions of (submitted) neuroendocrine response to social environment." Brain and Behavior Science.
1997 Decker, S. "Social status, and stress among adult male Dominican horticulturalists." Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC.
1996 Flinn, M.V., R.J. Quinlan, M.T. Turner, S.A. Decker, and B.G. England. "Male-female differences in effects of parental absence on glucocorticoid stress response." Human Nature, 7(2), 1125-62.
1995 Flinn, M.V., S.A. Decker, and D. Tedeschi. "Male life histories, hormonal profiles, and reproductive strategies." In B. Campbell (Ed.), paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Oakland, CA.
1994 Decker, S. "Effects of social status on the hormonal stress-response in humans." paper presented at the Annual Meeting of Southern Anthropology Society, Atlanta, Georgia.
1994 Decker, S., M. Flinn, and B. England. "Interactions of social status with daily cortisol and testosterone in adult male Caribbean villagers." poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists Denver, Colorado.
1993 Decker, S. "Social networks, and daily patterns of cortisol, and testosterone among adult males in a rural Caribbean village." M.A. Thesis, University of Missouri, Columbia.
1993 Decker, S. "The cortisol-testosterone stress response in Dominican males." paper presented to Evolution and Human Behavior Graduate Student Symposium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Field and Laboratory Research
12-97 to 8-98 Ph.D. Dissertation fieldwork in Lephephe and Gaborone, Botswana. Compared stress and social life among 30 rural and 35 urban men. Collected interview data about social networks, life history, depression, demography, cultural models of traditional and modern life, style of life, status incongruity, and peer-ratings of social power. Collected repeated measures of salivary cortisol, and behavioral observations to assess stress and daily social experience.
10-95 to 3-96 Language training and pilot research in Botswana. Accomplishments include: (a) lived in various communities in Botswana and assessed research feasibility; (b) studied and practiced Setswana; (c) consulted with Batswana authorities and Ministers in Botswana about research; (d) performed pilot archival research to perform initial tests of my research hypotheses; (e) obtained a Research Permit from the Office of the President of Botswana; (f) formed collaborative research contacts with the National Institute of research, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Local Government and Lands of Botswana.
1993-1999 Ligand assay laboratory research in the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology under the direction of Dr. Carol Worthman. Perform various assays of ligands in in vitro samples of blood and saliva from human subjects.
1993-94 Ethnographic and socioendocrinological research, Petite Soufriere, Commonwealth of Dominica. Continued investigation of interaction of social status and hormonal stress-response. Used quantitative measures of psychological state during daily visits with subjects. Improved genealogical, economic and demographic data. Collected additional life history information.
1992 Salivary radioimmunoassay research under supervision of Dr. Barry England, Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Analyzed 3457 saliva samples collected in Petite Soufriere, Dominica.
1992 Ethnographic field research for M.A. thesis, Petite Soufriere, Commonwealth of Dominica. Investigated interaction of social status, temperament, daily experience, and hormonal stress-response.
1991 Karst hydrology research University of Missouri, Columbia. Investigated the relation of surface drainage near an interstate highway to karst drainage and cave habitats of endangered species.


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