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An interdisciplinary research collaborative
investigating the pasts, presents, and futures of
forager & mixed-subsistence children's lives
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This new paper — from FCS folks Sheina Lew-Levy, Annemieke Milks, and Tanya Broesch — focuses on the acquisition of spear hunting skill among BaYaka youth.

Abstract: Teaching likely evolved in humans to facilitate the faithful transmission of complex tasks. As the oldest evidenced hunting technology, spear hunting requires acquiring several complex physical and cognitive competencies. In this study, we used observational and interview data collected among BaYaka foragers (Republic of the Congo) to test the predictions that costlier teaching types would be observed at a greater frequency than less costly teaching in the domain of spear hunting and that teachers would calibrate their teaching to pupil skill level. To observe naturalistic teaching during spear hunting, we invited teacher–pupil groupings to spear hunt while wearing GoPro cameras. We analysed 68 h of footage totalling 519 teaching episodes. Most observed teaching events were costly. Direct instruction was the most frequently observed teaching type. Older pupils received less teaching and more opportunities to lead the spear hunt than their younger counterparts. Teachers did not appear to adjust their teaching to pupil experience, potentially because age was a more easily accessible heuristic for pupil skill than experience. Our study shows that costly teaching is frequently used to transmit complex tasks and that instruction may play a privileged role in the transmission of spear hunting knowledge.

This terrific new paper, published in the Review of Philosophy and Psychology, provides a roadmap for cross-cultural developmental research, with a focus on inclusive and ethical research practices.


This paper provides a roadmap for engaging in cross-cultural, developmental research in practical, ethical, and community-engaged ways. To cultivate the flexibility necessary for conducting cross-cultural research, we structure our roadmap as a series of questions that each research program might consider prior to embarking on cross-cultural examinations in developmental science. Within each topic, we focus on the challenges and opportunities inherent to different types of study designs, fieldwork, and collaborations because our collective experience in conducting research in multiple cultural contexts has taught us that there can be no single “best practice”. Here we identify the challenges that are unique to cross-cultural research as well as present a series of recommendations and guidelines. We also bring to the forefront ethical considerations which are rarely encountered in the laboratory context, but which researchers face daily while conducting research in a cultural context which one is not a member. As each research context requires unique solutions to these recurring challenges, we urge researchers to use this set of questions as a starting point, and to expand and tailor the questions and potential solutions with community members to support their own research design or cultural context. This will allow us to move the field towards more inclusive and ethical research practices.

"The children who lived more than 10,000 years ago have been historically understudied even though they're pivotal for our collective understanding of the species, according to researcher April Nowell.

"If children represented anywhere between a half to two-thirds of the population during the paleolithic, then in order to understand the lives of our ancestors, we need to also understand the lives of these children," Nowell, a paleolithic archeologist at the University of Victoria told CBC Radio's Ideas.

Nowell, author of Growing Up in the Ice Age, has spent decades piecing together the past with only hints of evidence left by people just minding their own business at the tail end of the last ice age around 15,000 years ago, when wooly mammoths roamed the countryside.

She's one of a growing number of researchers working to change longstanding biases that have led to children being understudied compared to their adult counterparts."

Continue reading on CBC, with quotes from our very own Sheina Lew-Levy.

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