Next Psychology Research Seminar “Is kinship a schema?”
Submitted by Dr Helen Clegg
The next psychology research seminar will be on Wednesday 26th March at 3.30pm in F43. Refreshments will be available from 3.15pm. Dr Anna Machin from the University of Oxford will be speaking on the evolutionary origins of kinship.
The title of the seminar is “Is kinship a schema? Exploring the evolutionary origins of kinship.” and will be presented by Dr Anna Machin, a postdoctoral research fellow within the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, University of Oxford.
Abstract: Human kinship systems and their associated terminology are universally present in human societies and are adopted into the individual’s world view at a young age. Despite these strong indicators of their evolution as a result of natural selection the evolutionary origins of kinship have rarely been explored. I present the results of a series of studies which test the hypothesis that the kinship system evolved as a mechanism for reducing the cognitive load of maintaining kin relationships allowing the freeing up of processing power and the expansion of the human social network from the 50 individuals commonly seen in our closest non-human primate relatives to the 150 which is the average today. Using response time to moral dilemmas involving kin and friends as a proxy for cognitive load I present replicated results that show evidence for a reduction in cognitive load along the lines hypothesised. However, the extent of this reduction is impacted by both gender and the nature of the response to the experimental task. I consider the impact of the density of the kin network, the role of female kin as “network gatekeepers” and the presence of fictive kin on results.
Biography: Dr Anna Machin is a postdoctoral research fellow within the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, headed by Robin Dunbar, within the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. Her work focuses upon the neurobiology, cognition and psychology of close human relationships at the dyadic, triadic and group level. She has a particular interest in the role for endogenous opioids in the maintenance of human relationships, the experience of new fatherhood and the development of the father/infant bond, the role for genetic variation as a cause of difference in pro-social tendency and in developing interventions to deal with the long-term consequences of relationship dysfunction for the individual, their family and society.