ELIZABETH CASHDAN

Curriculum Vitae

ELIZABETH CASHDAN portrait
  • Professor, Anthropology Department, University of Utah

Research

Research Statement

I  use the theoretical perspectives of evolutionary ecology and evolutionary psychology to understand various aspects of human behavior. My overseas fieldwork has been with hunter-gatherers in Botswana (Bushmen) and Tanzania (Hadza).

My research has followed two primary threads over the years:

(1) Understanding the adaptive significance and proximate (hormonal) correlates of of sex differences in competition, aggression, and, most recently, spatial cognition.  Spatial ability is important in daily life and is phylogenetically ancient (unlike math and reading), and shows a surprisingly large sex difference in some areas.  The size of these effects, their presence in some other species, and their relationship to sex hormones and sex differences in mobility  suggest that  these may be evolved features and that to understand them we need to understand the selection pressures that shaped them.  With colleagues in anthropology, psychology and geography, I am conducting an NSF-funded project that will look at age changes and sex differences in mobility and spatial cognition in three forager and forager-farmer societies (Hadza, Twe, Shuar) and the U.S.

(2) Understanding the ecological determinants of how hunans use space. This research thread includes my earlier work on hunter-gatherer mobility and territoriality, and more recent work on ethnic diversity and its environmental and biogeographic determinants.  Because some theorists have argued that infectious disease has been an important selection pressure shaping human culture, I have included this along with other environmental pressures in attempting to understand ethnic boundedness and global diversity.

Research Keywords

  • human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, spatial cognition, Interest Level: 5

Research Groups

  • Spatial Cognition and Navigation (SCAN), Research Professor. Anthropology . 09/2013 - 08/2017. Awards/Scholarships/Stipends: NSF-funded research group.