Psychology Doctoral Student David Lewis

David LewisThis semester, Jarod Gonzalez, my IE Pre-Grad intern, and I focused our efforts on a study called "My Brother's Keeper: The Problem of Sibling Uncertainty." This study is based on an evolutionarily-derived hypothesis that purported full biological siblings will use resemblance to one another as a cue to kinship. Given our knowledge of kin-directed altruism among non-human primates, it is hypothesized that siblings of greater resemblance make greater sacrifices for one another, engage in less conflict, and report having stronger relationships than siblings of lesser resemblance.

In order to test this hypothesis, study participants upload photographs of their siblings to a study-specific email account, of which Jarod is the administrator. Jarod reviews this email account daily to ensure that participants are uploading the photos, and that the photos are appropriate for the study. Once Jarod has verified this information, he assigns the participants a unique identification number to ensure confidentiality of their responses on the study survey, which Jarod helped develop. Participants then come to the lab, and complete a self-report based "interview" assessing the characteristics of their relationships with their siblings. Jarod has worked to develop and execute this research methodology throughout the term.

When their have been delays (such as waiting for IRB approval), Jarod and I have been working on two other projects still under development. The first project deals with positive externality-catalyzed formations of friendship. We have been reading seminal theoretical papers on the topic, which have left empirically unexplored. For Jarod's final project, he is working towards turning this novel theoretical contribution into testable research hypotheses that can make a contribution in the empirical realm.

Finally, Jarod and I working on a project dealing with an evolved preference in men for women whose back curvature would have minimized lumbar strain during pregnancy during human evolution. Again, we have been reading seminal papers, but in this case, the papers have come from spine and biological journals rather than theoretical psychological works.

All in all, I think Jarod has had an enriching and rewarding experience in the IE Pre-Grad Internship, and has learned much about what it means to be a graduate student in evolutionary psychology, from the tedium of spending hours on minute survey details, to the excitement of knowing that if we find the results we're looking for, we'll be the first to make them.