Sarah Mathew

School of Human Evolution and Social Change,
SHESC Bldg. Room 356, 900 S Cady Mall
IHO Research Affiliate and Assistant Professor
Faculty
TEMPE Campus
Mailcode
2402

Biography

Sarah Mathew investigates why humans, unlike other animals, cooperate in groups comprising large numbers of genetically unrelated individuals, and how the evolution of this unique form of cooperation is tied to the origins of moral sentiments, cultural norms, and warfare. To address these issues, she combines formal modeling of the evolution of cooperation with fieldwork to test theories of how cooperation is sustained.

She has been running a field project in Kenya among the Turkana, a politically uncentralized pastoral society with limited market integration examining how and at what scale people cooperate when centralized political institutions are absent. Her findings have pointed to the foundational role of informal cultural norms, and thereby the human capacity for cultural transmission, in the emergence of human cooperation. As interethnic warfare is prevalent in this population in the form of cattle raiding, Mathew has also done detailed studies examining why Turkana warriors participate in these high-stakes battles where the costs of participation such as injury or death is borne by the individual, but the gains of victory are shared widely.

Through systematic empirical studies in this unique ethnographic context, Mathew's work has shed light on how and at what social scale humans solve the collective action problem in warfare without hierarchical formal military institutions. She is a recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a $200,000 award given to scholars identified as among the country's most creative thinkers to support research on challenges to democracy and international order.   

Education

PhD, Anthropology - University of California Los Angeles

AB, Ecology and Evolutionary Biolody - Princeton University

Google Scholar

Research Interests

Sarah's work centers on understanding how humans, unlike any other mammal, evolved to cooperate on extremely large scales that can include millions of people and how this ties with the origins of norms, moral sentiments and prosocial preferences. She approaches these questions by combining formal models of the evolution of cooperation with field studies among the Turkana, an acephalous nomadic pastoral society in Kenya. She has conducted systematic field studies among the Turkana that reveal what mechanisms sustain large-scale cooperation in inter-ethnic warfare when formal centralized institutions are absent. For more on her research, visit her personal website

Publications

S Mathew. 2017. How the second-order free rider problem is solved in a small-scale society. American Economic Review. Vol 107 (5) 578-81.

S Mathew, C Perreault. 2016. Cultural history, not ecological environment, is the main determinant of human behavior. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B 283 (1826).

Richerson, P., Baldini, R., Bell, A., Demps, K., Frost, K., Hillis, V., Mathew, S., Newton, E., Narr, N., Newson, L., Ross, C., Smaldino, P., Waring, T., Zefferman, M. 2016. Cultural group selection follows Darwin's classic syllogism for the operation of selection. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 39, e58

Richerson, P., Baldini, R., Bell, A., Demps, K., Frost, K., Hillis, V., Mathew, S., Newton, E., Narr, N., Newson, L., Ross, C., Smaldino, P., Waring, T., Zefferman, M. Cultural Group Selection Plays and Essential Role in Explaining Human Cooperation. A Sketch of the Evidence. 2016. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 39, e30

Mathew, S. and Perreault, C. 2015. Behavioral variation in 172 small-scale societies indicates social learning to be the main mode of human adaptation. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B. Published online 17 June 2015. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0061

Zefferman M., Baldini R. and Mathew S. 2015. Solving the puzzle of human warfare requires an explanation of battle raids and cultural institutions.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(20): E2557.

Mathew, S. 2015. Are Cultural and Evolutionary Views of Human Warfare Converging? A Review of “War, Peace and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, edited by Douglas P. Fry (Oxford University Press, 2015)”. Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution 6 (1). https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4125090f

Boyd, R. and Mathew, S. 2015. Third-party monitoring and sanctions aid the evolution of language. Evolution and Human Behavior. Published online Jun 23 2015. DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.06.002

Mathew, S.  2015. The evolution of human cooperation. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences 2nd edition 11: 259-266.

Zefferman, M. and Mathew, S. 2015. An Evolutionary Theory of Large-scale Human Warfare: Group-structured Cultural Selection. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News and Reviews 24(2): 50-61.

Mathew, S. and Boyd, R. 2014. The cost of cowardice: third-party punitive sentiments towards free riders in Turkana raids.­­­ Evolution and Human Behavior 35: 58-64

Panchanathan, K., Mathew, S. and Perreault, C. 2014. Explaining group-level traits requires distinguishing process from product. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37(3): 269-270.

Mathew, S., Boyd, R. and van Veelen, M. 2013. Human cooperation among kin and close associates may require enforcement of norms by third parties. In: Cultural Evolution, ed. P. J. Richerson and M. Christiansen. Strüngmann Forum Report 12, series editor J. Lupp. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jordan, F. M., C. van Schaik, P. François, H. Gintis, D. B. M. Haun, D. J. Hruschka, M. A. Janssen, J. A. Kitts, L. Lehmann, S. Mathew, P. J. Richerson, P. Turchin, and P. Wiessner. 2013. Cultural evolution of the structure of human groups. In: Cultural Evolution, ed. P. J. Richerson and M. Christiansen. Strüngmann Forum Report 12, series editor J. Lupp. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bowles, S., Boyd, R. Mathew, S. and Richerson , P. J. 2012. The punishment that sustains cooperation is often coordinated and costly. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35(1): 20-21

Perreault, C. and Mathew, S. 2012. Dating the origin of language using phonemic diversity. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35289.

​Mathew, S. and Boyd, R. 2011. Reply to Baumard and Lienard: Mechanistic accounts need to specify why reputation systems yield cooperative outcomes on observed scales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(39): E754.

Mathew, S. and Boyd, R. 2011. Punishment sustains large-scale cooperation in prestate warfare. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (28): 11375 – 11380

Mathew, S. and Boyd, R. 2009. When does optional participation allow the evolution of cooperation? Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B. 276: 1167 – 1174

Boyd, R. and Mathew, S. 2007. A Narrow Road to Cooperation, Science, 316: 1858 – 1859.

Research Activity

Courses

Spring 2018
Course Number Course Title
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 592 Research
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 792 Research
ASB 799 Dissertation
Fall 2017
Course Number Course Title
ASB 210 Human Sexuality: Anth Perspect
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 584 Internship
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 592 Research
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 792 Research
ASB 799 Dissertation
Summer 2017
Course Number Course Title
ASB 792 Research
Spring 2017
Course Number Course Title
ASB 210 Human Sexuality: Anth Perspect
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 592 Research
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 792 Research
ASB 799 Dissertation
Fall 2016
Course Number Course Title
ASM 394 Special Topics
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 584 Internship
ASM 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASM 592 Research
ASB 592 Research
ASM 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASM 792 Research
ASB 792 Research
ASM 799 Dissertation
ASB 799 Dissertation
Spring 2016
Course Number Course Title
ASM 342 Evolution of Human Behavior
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 592 Research
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 792 Research
ASB 799 Dissertation
Fall 2015
Course Number Course Title
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASM 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 584 Internship
ASM 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASM 592 Research
ASB 592 Research
ASM 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASM 792 Research
ASB 792 Research
ASM 799 Dissertation
ASB 799 Dissertation
Spring 2015
Course Number Course Title
ASM 394 Special Topics
ASM 484 Internship
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASM 493 Honors Thesis
ASM 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASM 590 Reading and Conference
ASM 592 Research
ASB 592 Research
ASM 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASM 792 Research
ASB 792 Research
ASM 799 Dissertation
ASB 799 Dissertation
Fall 2014
Course Number Course Title
BIO 327 Evolution and Human Behavior
ASM 342 Evolution and Human Behavior
ASM 484 Internship
ASB 484 Internship
ASM 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASM 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASB 584 Internship
ASM 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASM 592 Research
ASB 592 Research
ASM 790 Reading and Conference
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASM 792 Research
ASB 792 Research
ASB 799 Dissertation
ASM 799 Dissertation
Spring 2014
Course Number Course Title
ASM 342 Evolution and Human Behavior
ASM 484 Internship
ASB 484 Internship
ASB 492 Honors Directed Study
ASM 492 Honors Directed Study
ASM 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 493 Honors Thesis
ASB 499 Individualized Instruction
ASM 499 Individualized Instruction
ASB 580 Practicum
ASM 590 Reading and Conference
ASB 590 Reading and Conference
ASM 592 Research
ASB 592 Research
ASB 790 Reading and Conference
ASM 790 Reading and Conference
ASM 792 Research
ASB 792 Research
ASM 799 Dissertation
ASB 799 Dissertation