Stephen Emlen is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Behavioral Ecology in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior.  As an evolutionary biologist, he has spent over 25 years studying the behavior and ecology of animal species that live in societies that are structurally similar to those of various human societies. As a proponent of the viewpoint that findings from animal studies can be informative to an understanding of human families, he will bring to the proposed collaboration the evolutionary perspective that is often missing in the social sciences.

Much of Emlen’s research, teaching, and outreach activities are directly relevant to the Evolving Family Project.  His research interests revolve around understanding the adaptive significance of social behaviors in animals. He is particularly interested in the juxtaposition of cooperation and conflict in social groups comprised of close genetic relatives (i.e. families).  His work blends the development of conceptual theory with empirical testing of the assumptions and predictions of competing hypotheses.   Emlen has lectured extensively on human mating systems, the evolution of families, and an evolutionary perspective on human family dynamics (i.e. interactions among family members).  His new course “Evolutionary perspectives on human behavior” (BioNB 327) includes topics such as courtship, marriage, parenting, and the human family. Recent publications and lectures reflect his growing interest in evolving families and human mate choice.  Among them are “An evolutionary theory of the family” (PNAS, 1995), “The evolutionary study of human family systems” (Social Science Information, 1997), “From cooperative birds to dysfunctional families” (Pittsburgh Eminent Biologist Lecture Series, 2000), “Cognitive processes underlying human mate choice” (with Peter Buston, PNAS, 2003), and “Birds ‘R’ Us: Chronicles of an Avian Anthropologist” (Wilson Ornithological Society, 2004).  

W323 Mudd Hall