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 phylogenetically ancient  (unlike math and reading) and shows a surprisingly robust sex difference in humans and in some other species, where it is also related to sex differences in mobility.   This has suggested to evolutionists that these are evolved features and that to understand them we need to understand the selection pressures that shaped them. Our cross-disciplinary Spatial Cognition and Navigation project is studying this in the lab and in the field, and now includes five fieldsites. We have recently received additional funding to study the development of these abilities in children cross-culturally.

(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.