HEBEN 2014


In 2003, the Human Evolution and Behavior Network (HEBEN) was founded to meet the challenges posed by dramatic changes in our understanding of our own species. The Center is dedicated to advance interdisciplinary research of human thinking and behaviour in the Low Countries. HEBEN organizes an annual conference with national and international speakers. The main scope of this annual event is to offer a platform for presentation and feedback to young researchers, part of the HEBEN network. Yet we welcome anyone to attend this event.  

This year this event is scheduled on October 23 & 24 2014.


Thursday October 23 2014 – Cultural Evolution and Mating Strategies

Morning Session - Cultural Evolution

  • 09:00 – 09:30 – Welcome, coffee and registration
  • 9:30 – 10:30 – Plenary Talk by Prof. Dr. Grant Ramsey
  • 10:30 – 11:00 – Coffee Break

11:00 – 12u30 – Presentations 

  • De Block Andreas (KULeuven) - The cultural evolution of species number.
  • Joye Yannick & Dewitte Siegfried (KULeuven) – High buildings trigger freezing responses.
  • Blanke Stefaan & Boudry Maarten (UGent) -  Supernatural agriculture? Or why religion is probably not an adaptation.
  • Hofhuis Steije (University of Amsterdam) - The mysterious origin of latent functions: can cultural Darwinism provide us with an explanation?
  • 12:30 – 14:00 – Lunch (provided) 

Afternoon Session - Mating Strategies

  • 14:00 – 16:00 – Presentations
  • Johns Sarah & Whitehouse Francesca (U Kent, UK) - Female intrasexual competition and the detection of cyclical fertility status.
  • Pollet Thomas & Stulp Gert (VU Amsterdam) - Which variables predict being chosen on a speed date? A random forest approach.
  • Peperkoorn Leonard, Pollet Thomas & Roberts Craig. (VU Amsterdam/ University of Sterling) - The Grey area surrounding the red effect on attractiveness: Limited support for a red effect in human mate preferences.
  • Franssens Samuel & Dewitte Siegfried (London Business school / KuLeuven) - Conspicuous consumption has social costs for low status individuals.
  • Henninghausen Christine (Wuerzburg) - Conspicuous smartphones serve as men’s but not women’s intrasexual signal.
  • 15:30 – 16:00 – Coffee Break
  • 16:00 – 17:00 – Plenary Talk by Prof. Dr. Maryanne Fisher

Conference dinner (for presenters only). 

Friday October 24 2014 – Prosocial Behaviour, Cooperation, coalition & competition

Morning Session

  • 09:00 – 09:30 – Welcome, coffee and registration
  • 9:30 – 10:30 – Plenary Talk by Prof. Dr. Nicole Hess
  • 10:30 – 11:00 – Coffee Break
  • 11:00 – 12u30 – Presentations
  • Wu Junhui, Balliet Daniel, & Van Lange Paul. (VU Amsterdam) - Reputation Management: Why and how gossip enhances generosity
  • Pauwels Loren (UAntwerpen) - Power, social value differences and their role in directing ‘the orchestra of heuristics’ in social dilemmas.
  • Vlerick Michael (Johannesburg)- Explaining social institutions: a game-theoretic approach.
  • Grabo Allen & van Vugt Mark (VU Amsterdam) – Charisma and signalling theory: How leaders can help groups overcome the problem of “fragile cooperation”.
  • Hallam Lara (UAntwerpen). Obama versus Romney: Charisma during the 2012 elections.
  • 12.30-13.30: Lunch-workshop: informal opportunity to establish new collaborations among attendees of this event

  • 14u-15u: Closing reception at City Hall of Antwerp

Plenary  Abstracts

Grant Ramsey - Is cultural fitness hopelessly confused?

Fitness is a central concept in evolutionary theory. Just as it is central to biological evolution, so, it seems, it should be central to cultural evolutionary theory (CET). But importing the biological fitness concept to CET is no straightforward task—there are many features unique to cultural evolution that makes this difficult. This has led some theorists to argue that there are fundamental problems with cultural fitness that render it hopelessly confused. In this essay, we defend the coherency of cultural fitness against those who call it into doubt.

Maryanne Fisher – The Overlooked Romance Novel as a Tool for Comprehending Women’s Evolved Psychology 

Previous researchers have examined various cultural products to demonstrate human’s evolved motivations and behaviours. Using this foundation, I argue that romance novels represent an interesting artifact to examine the interaction between society, culture, and evolutionary theory, particularly with respect to women’s ideal views of romance, marriage, reproduction, and potential mates.  I will present the results of three distinct studies that highlight this interaction, with a focus on how these novels reveal, universally, women’s evolved mating interests.  The studies rely on an analysis of Harlequin romance novels, of which 6.28 billion books have been sold since the 1950s. Thus, these novels have been extremely successful in sales, including within international markets. The first study discussed is an analysis of titles, while the second is an exploration of hero vs. heroine development within the novels. The third study, which is ongoing, concerns cover images. Collectively, the studies reveal stable themes in women’s mating psychology, but that these are displayed according to socio-cultural norms. I will argue that there are several advantages to investigating cultural products to more fully understand human’s evolved psychology.

Nicole Hess - Informational warfare: coalitions and cooperation in reputational competiton

Evolutionists have argued for the role of coordinated physical aggression in shaping coalitional psychology and behavior among human males. When physical force determines access to important resources like food, territory, and mates, coalitions have a distinct competitive advantage over individuals. Similarly, among non-human primates, females often form strong bonds and cooperate in physical contests with other females over access to resources. Human females exhibit enduring, coalitional bonds as well, but they almost never engage in coordinated physical aggression. I argue that coalitional relationships among human females—like those among human males and like those among female nonhuman primates—serve, in part, aggressive functions in the realm of reputational competition. Informational warfare—the cooperative collection, analysis, and dissemination of reputational information (i.e., 'gossiping')—may be a strategy for increasing access to contested material and social resources. This talk will briefly review: the primate socioecological model and how it relates to humans, empirical and theoretical work suggesting that reputation is an important mediator of access to contested resources, informational warfare theory, and hypotheses for sex differences in indirect aggression and informational warfare. Results will be presented from several studies investigating the influence of allies, competition, and sex on gossiping behavior and resource allocation, using data collected in US college sororities, the Central African Republic, and online international samples.


HEBEN 2014 is organized by Charlotte De Backer and Carolyn Declerck. If you have any questions, contact Charlotte De Backer:   charlotte.debacker@uantwerpen.be T +32 2655680