The Human Sociality Lab now lives at
Please visit us there!
The Washington State University Pullman campus is located on the homelands of the Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) Tribe and the Palus people. We acknowledge their presence here since time immemorial and recognize their continuing connection to the land, to the water, and to their ancestors.
Follow us on Twitter!
The Human Sociality Lab, based at Washington State University in Pullman, is directed by Anne Pisor. The HSL is broadly focused on how an improved understanding of human sociality can help us tackle pressing issues of our time, including natural resource management and human responses to climate change. We work at the intersection of evolutionary and cultural anthropology, social psychology, ecology, and microeconomics, and we emphasize a combination of basic, applied, and collaborative research.
The HSL is accepting students interested in completing a PhD in evolutionary or cultural anthropology. See our Team page for more details.
Tanzanian fish. Pescados tanzanianos.
(📷: Kris Smith)
Kris (center) and fishers in Somanga, Tanzania. Kris (centro) y pescadores en Somanga, Tanzania.
Fishing with bow and arrow in Bolivia. Pescando con arco y flecha en Bolivia.
Hugo (L/I) & Anne.
Our current research
Long-distance relationships and natural resource management
Anne and postdoc Kris Smith are collaborating with Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, Mwambao Coastal Community Network, Blue Ventures, and WWF to study whether long-distance social relationships -- friendships and connections that span distance -- predict successful management of coastal fisheries. When resources are large and easily accessed by multiple communities but can be depleted by overuse (think fisheries, rangelands, forests, and watersheds), resource management is especially challenging. When people have long-distance relationships, or when they're interested in these relationships, are they more likely to participate in resource management? In work funded by the US National Science Foundation, our field team is studying this question in Tanga, Tanzania, in collaboration with 28 villages.
Long-distance relationships and climate change
Anne studies how people's social networks enable them to respond to climate change -- in other words, how adaptations to climate, like risk-pooling and migration, are enabled by people's social networks. Importantly, people's social networks also affect which candidate adaptations to climate are innovated and transmitted. Anne, James Holland (Jamie) Jones, and others are encouraging those studying and funding climate change adaptation to pay attention to the adaptations communities already have. They are also encouraging more scholars to tell others what is already known about humans' long history of responding to climate. Ultimately Anne hopes that these efforts will help us anticipate how communities will respond to impending climate change and to better support them as they cope. To support the connections between communities that help foster grassroots adaptation, and the connections between communities and researchers that help us understand how climate change adaptation unfolds, Anne is leading a team based at WSU and Urbanova to develop an app called ClimTo, or Climate Together.
Read more about ClimTo here:
The evolution of human sociality
Anne and Kris study the evolution of relationships spanning distance in the human lineage. These have been a central building block of human sociality since at least the origin of Homo sapiens. Evidence suggests that long-distance relationships have allowed us to manage shortfalls that strike our entire community -- including all of our everyday cooperative partners -- and to access resources never locally available. Importantly, long-distance relationships may or may not cross group boundaries --- they are not the same as intergroup relationships and may have served different functions over our evolutionary history. However, whether talking about long-distance or intergroup relationships in humans, these relationships are flexible: humans are not always hostile towards people from other places, nor are we always friendly towards them. We can study why flexible interest in long-distance relationships evolved in the human lineage through comparative research with non-human primates and by exploring data from human societies past and present. We can then make predictions about the cues that affect whether we are interested in long-distance relationships, and with whom, and better investigate the role of long-distance relationships in human social networks today.
How do we study long-distance relationships? Because these connections are often called on in rare circumstances, they may not be salient to people in everyday life. Anne and her collaborators discuss strategies for measuring long-distance relationships, including in a how-to paper for using economic experiments ("games") in the field.
Non-kin and cooperative breeding
PhD student Ollie Shannon, lab alum Eric Hubbard (MA '22), and Anne study the role of non-kin in childrearing. Humans engage in cooperative childrearing -- individuals other than parents often are important to raising children -- and in humans, even non-kin are sometimes involved. What are the benefits to non-kin of investing in children who are not their own? How do children benefit? Research to answer these questions is ongong.
Moral psychology across cultures
Anne collaborates with anthropologists, philosophers, and psychologists to study various aspects of moral psychology cross-culturally. She and her collaborators find that across cultures, what people view as good and bad qualities in others (people's moral models) are often related to cooperation, there's variation around the world in whether people pay attention to others' intentions when making moral judgments, people pay less attention to others' intentions in moral judgments when kinship plays a bigger role in organizing daily life, and people apply moral norms more to those in their same community than to those elsewhere in the world.
Our past research
Social transmission of information about hazards
Anne and her collaborators found that U.S. Americans find information about hazards more believable than information about benefits. Those who believe the world is dangerous or hold socially conservative views are especially willing to believe hazardous information. If these differences in people's willingness to believe hazards translates into differences in whether they remember than information and tell others about it, this might affect the prevelance and persistence of information about hazards in the US.
Max, his wife, and their grandson. Max, su pareja, y su nieto.
A boat under construction at Njia Nne, Tanzania. Un barco bajo de construcción en Njia Nne, Tanzania. 📷 Kris Smith
Passing time on a cold day. Pasando tiempo en un día frío.
"Do not dump waste, cut down trees, or dig sand. -BMU." 'Prohibdo tire basura, corte arboles, o cave arena. -BMU." 📷 Kris Smith
The Ayra family & Anne. La familia Ayra & Anne.