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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - Can Evolutionary Theory Inform Public Policy?

9th March 2015, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor David C Geary, University of Missouri-Columbia


An evolutionary approach to learning and development provides unique insights that can be applied to better understand and facilitate children’s schooling and to more fully understand and assess sex differences in vulnerability to stressors. The key for children’s schooling centers on the distinction between evolved and evolutionarily novel cognitive abilities and associated differences in ease of learning (e.g., language vs. reading) and motivation to engage in the activities that will facilitate this learning. The key to understanding vulnerability to stressors is sexual selection; specifically traits involved in competition for mates and mate choices. These traits are typically exaggerated and have evolved to signal the individuals’ ability to tolerate infectious disease and nutritional and social stressors. Trait exaggeration in turn leads to differences in traits that are vulnerable in males and females. The approach can be used to identify traits that are more vulnerable in boys and men or girls and women and has implications for assessment of vulnerability and potential sex-specific interventions to reduce risk.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.