First post: My SHEXXIII conference abstract

So I’ve been slowly developing this blog in private mode over the past couple of months, but haven’t yet written an actual post to go public with. I figure the acceptance of my presentation abstract for the Society for Human Ecology conference in Lisbon (July 7-10) is a reasonable way to kick things off.

So here’s the abstract here:

Survival of the fitted: the social and ecological implications of human self-domestication

Ben Thomas Gleeson11 Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Linnaeus Way, Acton, ACT, 2601. Email:

Keywords: Human self-domestication; Sociocultural niche construction; Socio-ecology; Human evolution; Human Ecology.

Animals domesticated by humans tend to show a suite of correlated and heritable traits when compared to their non-domesticated ancestors or relatives. This collection of features, described as ‘domestication syndrome’, has been experimentally shown to emerge within animal populations in response to sustained selection for increased sociability and lower reactive aggression. Based on fossil evidence of earlier humans, recent research suggests Homo sapiens is a ‘self-domesticated’ species. Expectations are that in humans the benefits of increased capacity for social interaction and exchange aided selection in favour of sociability, triggering the suite of other changes associated with domestication syndrome. This presentation will outline current knowledge and hypotheses regarding the biophysical process of domestication and human self-domestication and will explore the implications of this process in relation to human sociocultural niche construction and socio-ecological interaction.

From my perspective, this reads as fairly broad. There are a number of ‘implications’ of human self-domestication that I may eventually decide to highlight and discuss. One of the most interesting and intriguing, I think, is the idea that human behavioural modernity only began to emerge following observed physiological reduction in human masculinity (more on this in later posts). This implies a number of things regarding the sex and gender dynamics of human societies and human social niche construction.

I’m really looking forward to SHEXXIII. The last SHE conference (SHEXXII of course!) was organised and hosted by the Human Ecology group at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and was my first exposure to the breadth of Human Ecology research. It was also a lot of fun. I met some lovely people and got to present on previous Ecogeomorphic research that had been waiting to find a home. I’m looking forward to presenting something more up-to-date from my current PhD research. Hoping others will find my topic as intriguing as I do and might see it as useful to their own perspectives and research. I’m sure there’ll be some fascinating and inspiring work on display in Lisbon. Here’s a link to some of the accepted symposia and abstracts. Hope to see you there!

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