How important is kinship to network formation?

Working Paper: Social Support and Network Formation in a Small-Scale Horticulturalist Population (Under Review)

Abstract: Helping family and responding in kind when helped are generally positioned as the primary mechanisms by which humans informally acquire vital resources, resulting in the implicit assumption that kinship and direct reciprocity drive the emergence of entire systems of aid. Here I evaluate this assumption by using Stochastic Actor-Oriented Network Models (See Video Below) to test standard predictions of cooperation from the evolutionary theories of kin selection and reciprocal altruism alongside well-established sociological predictions around the self-organisation of asymmetric relationships. Models are fit to recently-released, exceptionally-detailed data on genetic kinship and the provision of tangible aid amongst all 108 adult residents of a village of indigenous horticulturalists in Nicaragua (1,422 source-recipient-verified aid relationships; 5,778 dyads). Results indicate that relatedness and reciprocity are markedly less important to who one helps compared to supra-dyadic factors intrinsic to the arrangement of the tangible aid network itself; namely, self-reinforcing popularity-based processes and group dynamics related to the formation of closed triads and tetrads.

Image of Village Homes by Ra De Luca via Pixabay