Human Behavioral Ecology
The adoption of innovations in small-scale societies
Development initiatives do not always succeed in implementing new programs aiming at improving health services (e.g. such as sanitation (pictured) or agriculture). In collaboration with a biologist from the University of Exeter (Dr S. Lamba), Dr Alex Alvergne investigates the relevance of evolutionary theoretical frameworks for understanding how such innovations may or may not spread in small-scale populations without adequate services. She uses a variety of data to better understand how people respond to the introduction of new cultural traits in rural India. While education and “changing culture” are usually considered to be the key for promoting the spread of health services in the public health literature and newspapers alike, practical concerns and resource access (e.g. the lack of availability to piped water) are generally overlooked. This research is funded by The British Academy.
Although vaccination is commonly considered to be one of the greatest successes of Western medicine, it has also contributed to a resurgence of diseases as a result of “vaccines scares”. So far, such scares or oscillation in vaccinating decision-making are understood as the result of a conflict between individual and group optimal interests. In collaboration with modelers from the University of Lille (Dr S. Billiard, M. Voinson), Dr Alex Alvergne is investigating the extent to which the assumption of rationality – here the idea that individuals act in their own interest – is mandatory for oscillations in vaccination coverage to occur. The project brings together cultural, psychological and epidemiological models for describing the dynamic of vaccinating decision-making.