Life history strategies, testosterone, and the anthropology of human development

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University of Alabama Libraries

Life history theory was originally formulated in evolutionary biology to describe interspecies variation in life course development as a result of natural selection. Recently, some theorists in psychology and anthropology have tried to apply life history theory to understanding human intraspecies variation in psychology and behavior. These theorists have proposed that psychosocial stressors found in harsher social environments serve as cues of mortality risk that prime the development of particular life history strategies. The current study was an early empirical exploration of this theoretical development through examining a possible relationship between measures of the social environment and proposed components of human psychological and behavioral life history strategies, including sociosexuality, aggression, and risk taking. This proposed relationship was tested using a sample (n = 99) that was recruited from the population of young adult male college students at the University of Alabama. Further, the current study was an effort to incorporate hormonal mechanisms as well as the influence of culture into life history strategy theorizing. Testosterone was measured both in the morning and in the late afternoon/evening through saliva samples due to its implication in sexual behavior, aggression, and risk taking. Ethnographic open ended interviews were conducted with members of the population under study (n = 10) in order to obtain environmental factors specific to the sociocultural context. This served to add breadth and a contextually specific assessment of the social environment for the study population. Results indicated no relationship between environmental assessment measures, life history strategy measures, and testosterone. Therefore, this suggests a need to reconsider the relevance of life history theory to variation in human psychology and behavior.

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Physical anthropology, Cultural anthropology