How important is kinship to network formation?

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

Abstract: Evolutionary studies of cooperation in traditional human societies indicate that helping family and responding in kind when helped are the primary mechanisms for distributing resources vital to survival (e.g., food, medicinal knowledge, money, and childcare). However, these studies generally rely on forms of regression analysis that disregard complex interdependences between aid, resulting in the implicit assumption that kinship and reciprocity drive the emergence of entire networks of supportive relationships. Here I evaluate this assumption with actor-based simulations of network formation (i.e., Stochastic Actor-Oriented Models). Specifically, I test standard predictions of cooperation derived from the evolutionary theories of kin selection and reciprocal altruism alongside well-established sociological predictions around the self-organisation of asymmetric relationships. Simulations are calibrated to exceptional public data on genetic relatedness and tangible aid provision 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 whom one helps compared to the supra-dyadic arrangement of the tangible aid network itself.

Image of Village Homes by Ra De Luca via Pixabay

See video below for a visual introduction to Stochastic Actor-Oriented Models.