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Location: Marriott Marquis (MM) A601

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Click here to visit the 2018 Evolutionary Psychology website.

The SPSP Evolutionary Psychology (EP) Preconference, in its 16th year, provides a forum for discussing cutting-edge research examining how social psychological processes have been shaped by recurring social and reproductive challenges humans faced over evolutionary history. Regularly among the top-attended preconferences at SPSP, the EP Preconference attracts established researchers, new investigators, and graduate students from universities around the world. The EP Preconference hosts invited speakers to present full-length research talks, and allows abstract submissions for data blitz and poster presentations for scholars at all levels. The presented research covers a broad range of topics, including: romantic relationships, decision-making, psychopathology, aggression and cooperation, social cognition, and personality. The EP Preconference fosters collaboration between researchers from various domains of social, personality, and developmental psychology. This preconference provides an optimal forum for introducing scholars—students and faculty—to how evolutionary theory can be applied to further our understanding of human psychology and behavior.

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Athena Aktipis, Arizona State University
The Human Generosity Project: Did need-based transfers and fitness interdependence shape human cooperation?
Do humans ever help one another without any expectation of being paid back? In The Human Generosity Project, my colleagues and I are investigating the evolutionary and cultural influences on human generosity especially in conditions of risk and ecological uncertainty. We use multiple methodologies including fieldwork, laboratory experiments and computational modeling to approach questions of human cooperation from multiple complementary perspectives. We are interested, especially, in the phenomenon of 'need-based transfers,' which are resource transfers that happen based on the need of the recipient and often do not include any expectation that the resources will be paid back at a future time. We have documented patterns of need-based transfers through both qualitative and quantitative data collected at our 11 fieldsites around the world, from East Africa to Fiji to the rural United States. We also observe need-based transfers in a novel experimental game, which we call the 'survival game,' that allows participants to pool risk through making requests for resources and responding to the requests for resources. Despite the fact that need-based transfers (NBT) do not require a ‘paying back’ of resources to the giver, they nevertheless can outperform debt-based transfer (DBT) rules in computational models, especially when ecological conditions are volatile. NBT strategies consistently outperform DBT strategies across a wide variety of parameters and network structures, though the advantage of NBT over DBT is greatest when shocks are not correlated and group size is small. Need-based transfer systems, like debt-based systems, are susceptible to cheating and so the human mind should be sensitive to information suggesting that need-based transfer rules have been violated. We have found that participants can detect cheating in need-based transfer rules at similar rates to detecting cheating in the traditional (debt-based) cheater detection scenario. Further, we have found that scores on a new scale for measuring fitness interdependence are excellent predictors of willingness to help; fitness interdependence is a better predictor of willingness to help than even genetic relatedness. Together, these results suggest that need-based transfers may be part of the human behavioral repertoire, and that they may be particularly adaptive in ecologies with greater volatility and risk.

Brian Boutwell, Saint Louis University
Re-imagining Evolutionary Psychology
Ever since the field’s inception, a standard assumption among a great many evolutionary psychologists has been the existence of a universal human nature. This assumption is important, in large part, because it makes a key prediction about the source of differences when they emerge across groups and across cultures, which is that differences between groups are largely the product of environmental and historical factors. This is doubtless accurate in many important respects. More recent evidence, however, suggests that the idea of a universal human nature may need to be reframed, at least to some degree. The rationale for this assertion rests on two basic points. First, after leaving Africa, human groups encountered different selective pressures. As a result, it is then at least plausible that these forces produced some degree of divergent evolution for certain traits—perhaps even psychological traits. Second, evolutionary change itself can happen more rapidly than was previously thought. These two points suggest that recent, and regionally specific evolution—in addition to genetic drift and historical forces—might have impacted various traits relevant to the psychological and health sciences. Ultimately, we argue that the central tenets of evolutionary psychology should be expanded to better accommodate the idea of recent evolutionary change, and propose various adjustments to the standard evolutionary psychological research approach.

David Buss, University of Texas at Austin
Co-Author, David Schmitt
Sexual Strategies Theory 2.0
Sexual Strategies Theory (SST), originally proposed by Buss and Schmitt in 1993, has been one of the most influential theories in burgeoning field of evolutionary psychology. It has attained over 4,000 scholarly citations since its first full articulation 25 years ago, as well as hundreds of empirical studies testing its 9 key hypotheses and 22 specific predictions. SST has also drawn a small handful of theoretical challenges and purported empirical refutations. This talk takes stock of the scientific status of SST. We discuss the core premises of SST, which involve the evolution of a menu of long-term and short-term mating strategies in women and men; sex differences and similarities in the design features of sexual psychology; and context-specific shifts in mating strategy depending on individual, social, and ecological qualities such as mate value, life history strategy, sex ratio, and cultural norms. We discuss the large body of empirical work that has tested its key predictions, the many published scholarly distortions of SST, and legitimate challenges to its core premises. Challenges include whether predicted sex differences actually exist; whether alternative theories, such as social role theory, provide compelling alternative explanations to empirical findings discovered by SST; and whether mate preferences predict actual mating behavior. We conclude by presenting Sexual Strategies Theory 2.0 and offering suggestions for the future science of human mating. 

Debra Lieberman, University of Miami
Why and how disgust is linked to morality
Humans, like many other species, evolved psychological adaptations that function to reduce the occurrence of fitness-jeopardizing behaviors. Three such adaptations include limiting the ingestion of entropy-increasing matter, limiting contact with sources of disease-causing organisms, and avoiding as sexual partners those individuals jeopardizing the health and viability of resulting offspring. One of the proximate mechanisms regulating these behaviors in humans, and perhaps other species as well is the system of disgust. Beyond functioning in the domains of personal consumption, contact, and copulation, disgust also influences group level behaviors, most notably morality. Recent research is beginning to flesh out the curious ways in which our psychological systems for disgust and morality are intertwined. Put simply, the things that disgust us often tend to be things that we also find offensive, taboo and morally wrong. In this talk I discuss why and how this link exists. I will tread lightly through what disgust is at an information-processing level of analysis. I will then attempt the impossible and provide the specific routes by which internal representations of ‘disgust’ are taken as input by ‘moral’ systems, a daring feat requiring an actual specification of morality. Should I survive, I will argue that disgust is an emotion that incites exploitation, never cooperation, and thus should be viewed with deep suspicion when cloaked in moral language and referenced in modern legal discourse.

David Pietraszewski, Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Breaking stereotypes: Applying an evolutionary and computational approach to social categorization
In this talk I will present a body of work investigating how different social categories—including race, sex, age, and accent—are represented across different social contexts. These studies suggest that we now have an adequate answer to why people categorize by race, to the point that we can experimentally-manipulate categorization by race—both up and down, and in some cases eliminate it. Furthermore, the same manipulations have zero effect on other socially-important categories, such as age, sex, and accent. These results suggest that we have discovered a hidden logic to racial categorization, and that we have probably been missing large and important features of the psychology of race in our current theories and methods. The studies themselves also represent a new and slowly-emerging trend in social cognition: shifting from a primary focus on experimental effects, to instead focusing on claims about psychological systems and functions. The current findings, for example, suggest that the rule-governed principles of social categorization will not be found at the level of uniform patterns of experimental effects, but will instead be found at the level of psychological models of why social perceivers are attending to social categories in the first place (i.e., the functional logic of cognitive adaptations). Furthermore—and importantly for social psychology—these results suggest that the long-held metaphor of social categories acting as containers to hold accumulated stereotypes cannot be quite right.

Keelah Williams, Hamilton College
A Life History Approach to Perceptions of Criminal Behavior
Abundant research suggests that—from arrest to trial to post-conviction release—a person’s race may influence his or her legal outcomes. However, this rich body of literature is primarily descriptive in nature; it provides a detailed account of how race affects legal outcomes, but does not provide a coherent theoretical framework for understanding why legal decision-makers use race as a cue to inform their judgments. Here, I will present such a framework, as well as findings from a series of studies in which I examined the implications of life history theory for better understanding stereotypic associations between race and criminality. My results demonstrate that many race stereotypes about criminal engagement and recidivism actually reflect inferences of the target’s presumed home environment. In the United States, race is somewhat confounded with ecology: Whites are more likely to live in relatively resource-sufficient and stable ecologies, whereas Blacks are more likely to live in relatively resource-poor and unpredictable ecologies. As a result, American perceivers use race as a heuristic cue to ecology, stereotyping Blacks as more likely than Whites to exhibit traits associated with individuals living in harsh and unpredictable environments (such as criminality). When more proximate cues to ecology are presented, ‘race’ stereotypes about propensity for violence, aggression, criminal engagement, and recidivism all disappear. My findings suggest a potentially novel approach to reducing discriminatory outcomes in the legal system: race differences in legal outcomes should be attenuated to the extent that targets of different races present cues of coming from the same ecology.

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Registration for the Evolutionary Psychology Preconference will be through the SPSP Meeting website

 Important registration information: 

  • Registration will open on September 1st, and once full will not reopen
  • Registration for the Evolutionary Psychology Preconference is limited and fills quickly--please register early!
  • Preconference registration ($95 without discount codes, see below) includes breakfast, lunch, and coffee. 
  • Registration for the preconference is independent from registration for the main SPSP conference.

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Thanks to the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, we are happy to announce that we will offer discounted registration for undergraduate and graduate students ($20), and post-doc and faculty ($10). Please enter PREvoStu20 (students) or 18EvoAll10 (post-doc and faculty) in the promo code area at check-out.Convention themed horizontal bar

Data Blitz & Poster Submissions

The organizing committee invites authors to submit their research for presentation at the 16th annual Evolutionary Psychology Preconference. This year we will be accepting abstract submissions for both a data blitz talks and poster presentations! The data blitz and poster session are an excellent opportunity for researchers to present new findings and get feedback from our community.

Each data blitz presenter will have 5 minutes to present 3-4 slides on their research and will also have time to answer 1 brief audience question.

Each poster presenter will have a poster board to attach their presentation to while they mingle with attendees.

Abstract submissions are now closed. First authors will be notified of the status of their submission via email by January 5th, 2018.

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Nicole BarbaroOakland University
Eric PedersenUniversity of Miami

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