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 current research is focused on understanding sex differences in mobility, navigation, and spatial cognition.

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.   Our Spatial Cognition and Navigation project is studying this in the lab and in the field, and now includes five fieldsites.

(2) Understanding the ecological determinants of how humans 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.