Biological Theory

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 145–155 | Cite as

Gender and Politics Among Anthropologists in the Units of Selection Debate

  • William YaworskyEmail author
  • Mark Horowitz
  • Kenneth Kickham
Original Article


In recent years evolutionary theorists have been engaged in a protracted and bitter disagreement concerning how natural selection affects units such as genes, individuals, kin groups, and groups. Central to this debate has been whether selective pressures affecting group success can trump the selective pressures that confer advantage at the individual level. In short, there has been a debate about the utility of group selection, with noted theorist Steven Pinker calling the concept useless for the social sciences. We surveyed 175 evolutionary anthropologists to ascertain where they stood in the debate. We found that most were receptive to group selection, especially in the case of cultural group selection. The survey also revealed that liberals and conservatives, and males and females, all displayed significant differences of opinion concerning which selective forces were important in humanity’s prehistory. We conclude by interpreting these findings in the context of recent research in political psychology.


Evolutionary anthropology Gender Politics Units of selection 



We thank Catherine Amy Frazier and Karen Pimentel for their research assistance and help in preparing this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Yaworsky
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark Horowitz
    • 1
  • Kenneth Kickham
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Texas at BrownsvilleBrownsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Political Science DepartmentUniversity of Central OklahomaEdmondUSA

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