Biocultural Theory: The Current State of Knowledge

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Biocultural theory is an integrative research program designed to investigate the causal interactions between biological adaptations and cultural constructions. From the biocultural perspective, cultural processes are rooted in the biological necessities of the human life cycle: specifically human forms of birth, growth, survival, mating, parenting, and sociality. Conversely, from the biocultural perspective, human biological processes are constrained, organized, and developed by culture, which includes technology, culturally specific socioeconomic and political structures, religious and ideological beliefs, and artistic practices such as music, dance, painting, and storytelling. Establishing biocultural theory as a program that self-consciously encompasses the different particular forms of human evolutionary research could help scholars and scientists envision their own specialized areas of research as contributions to a coherent, collective research program. This article argues that a mature biocultural paradigm needs to be informed by at least 7 major research clusters: (a) gene-culture coevolution; (b) human life history theory; (c) evolutionary social psychology; (d) anthropological research on contemporary hunter-gatherers; (e) biocultural socioeconomic and political history; (f) evolutionary aesthetics; and (g) biocultural research in the humanities (religions, ideologies, the history of ideas, and the arts). This article explains the way these research clusters are integrated in biocultural theory, evaluates the level of development in each cluster, and locates current biocultural theory within the historical trajectory of the social sciences and the humanities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Pages (from-to)1-15
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

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