I am a developmental scientist interested in how differing cultural & ecological environments shape the mind.
My research explores the diversity of human behavior from a cross-cultural, developmental perspective.
Most of my work focuses on decision-making, trying to understand the forces that shape our choices throughout our lifetime. To explore this topic, I bring together a diverse set of tools from fields like anthropology, psychology, evolutionary biology, and behavioral economics.
How does one's childhood environment affect their choices as an adult?
How do social preferences develop across different cultures?
How does industrialization influence development?
Those raised in lower socioeconomic households tend to be more prosocial, risk-averse, and present-oriented as adults.
Amir et al., 2016 ⇗
Those raised in lower socioeconomic households with subjectively lower perceptions of safety adopt more risk-sensitive reproductive strategies, tending to have earlier menarche and more robust fertility in adulthood.
Amir et al., ongoing work
Funded through a grant from the Templeton Foundation, my postdoctoral studies focus on the development of four important social preferences — trust, forgiveness, honesty, and fairness — across children of six cultures.
In addition to incentivized economic games, we are also collecting judgments and prescriptive norms from both children and adults in each community. Stay tuned!
Amir et al., 2019a ⇗
Children display high levels of variation in risk and time preferences across four cultures. A within-culture analysis among the Shuar suggests that this may be influenced by market integration: Shuar kids living near the cities act more like American kids than their more remote counterparts.
Amir et al., 2019b ⇗
Conceptions of subjective social status vary across four cultures in early life. Those in non-industrial societies have more difficulty with hierarchical measures of status.
As most of what we know about human behavior still comes from people living in WEIRD populations — those that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic — my research employs a cross-cultural perspective to explore the diversity of human behavior around the world.
My primary fieldwork takes place among the Shuar, an indigenous forager-horticulturalist group living in Amazonian Ecuador, in collaboration with the larger Shuar Health and Life History Project.
I complement this work with fieldwork in India and Uganda, in addition to research collaborations involving field sites across five continents.
👆My 2019 TEDxCambridge talk, "How Industrialization Changed Childhood".
The basic gist: Forces like industrialization have eroded some of the hallmarks of human childhood — such as independence, unstructured play, & mixed-age playgroups — which may still serve important functions for kids today. Perhaps we ought to work harder to preserve them.
Can You Tell a Real Laugh from a Fake One?