Dr. Dietrich Stout (Emory Anthropology) interviews Dr. Marcela Benitez about her work with Capuchin monkeys and her interest in their social behavior. Dr. Benitez is a postdoc at GA State University and will join Emory’s Anthropology Department as an assistant professor in January 2021.
The Anthropology department is proud to recognize eleven seniors who successfully defended honors theses, most of them holding defenses remotely and completing their projects from home after the University closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Their projects, the culmination of a year (or more!) of independent research and writing, were completed under the supervision of faculty advisors and committee members from within and outside of Anthropology, with support from faculty honors coordinator Dr. Kristin Phillips. These students were honored in a virtual Anthropology Honors and Awards Ceremony on April 24th. One student, Rachel Kim, graduated from Emory in December, and the others are scheduled to graduate with honors on May 11.
Please see below for a full list of theses, and join us in congratulating these students on their hard work and accomplishment!
Claire Biffl – Experiences of Aging, Kinship, Death, and Independence in an Independent Living Facility
Advised by Kristin Phillips
Elisabeth Crusey – “Does anybody have ibuprofen?”: An Investigation of Emory Undergraduates’ Over-the-Counter Analgesic Use
Advised by Bisan Salhi (School of Medicine)
Emma Hanlon – Spiritual Community, Sacred Congregation: Ritual, Discourse, and Space in the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta
Advised by Anna Grimshaw
Sarena Ho – Father Absence and Young Adult Romantic Relationship Ideals
Advised by Craig Hadley
Jahnvi Jain – Effects of a Brief Breath Focused Mindfulness Meditation Intervention on Heart Rate Variability and Dissociation in Patients with PTSD and Dissociation
Advised by Negar Fani (School of Medicine)
Adama Kamara – The Politics of Empowerment and Black Female Sexuality: Perceptions Through the Lens of Atlanta’s Trafficking Networks
Advised by Bayo Holsey
Nora Keathley – Latinx Women and Labor in the Digital Age: Exploring Childbirth and Medical Authority Through the Use of YouTube
Advised by John Lindo
Rachel Kim – Representation Matters: Changing Portrayals of Asian-Americans in Hollywood Films from 1993-2019
Advised by Anna Grimshaw
Riana Peskopos – The Queer Female Medical Narratives
Advised by Anna Grimshaw
Ruhika Prasad – Mental Illness and Pregnancy among Women in Mysore, India: Health Provider and Women’s Perspectives
Advised by Joyce Flueckiger (Religion)
Naomi Tesema – Mobile Phone Apps for HIV Prevention Among College-Aged Black Women in Atlanta: Preferences and Prototype
Advised by Rasheeta Chandler (Nursing) and John Lindo
A list of all previously completed Anthropology honors theses is available at
In his interview with the BBC Dr. James Rilling presents his research on hormonal and neural changes men experience during fatherhood, including lower testosterone and higher oxytocin during early fatherhood.
Sex for cooperation: New insights help to explain why same-sex sexual interactions are so important for female bonobos
Among our two closest phylogenetic relatives, chimpanzees remain by far the more thoroughly-studied and widely-recognized species, known for their high levels of cooperation especially among males, which includes sharing food, supporting each other in aggressive conflicts and defending their territories against other communities. In contrast, insights into the social dynamics of wild bonobos are available from only a small number of long-term field sites, and bonobos are probably best known for their diverse sexual behavior, which together with their proposed peacefulness between communities and co-dominance between the sexes, has led to their nickname as the ‘hippie apes.’ The stereotype of bonobos as hyper-sexual is an over-simplification, but it does capture a fascinating aspect of bonobo social behavior. Bonobos are one of the few species in which all adult members of one sex engage in habitual same-sex sexual interactions that occur at similar or even greater frequencies as opposite-sex interactions. In the wild, all adult females perform same-sex genital contacts, known as genito-genital rubbing (or GG-rubbing) on a regular basis with many other females in their community. In contrast, male bonobos rarely engage in same-sex sexual behavior. There are several theories to explain the function of same-sex sexual behavior in bonobos, including as a way to reduce social tension, prevent aggression or form social bonds. However, none of these theories can explain why such behavior occurs so frequently only among females.
To clarify why same-sex sexual behavior is so important specifically for female bonobos, we collected behavioral and hormonal data for over a year from all adult members of a habituated bonobo community at the long-term LuiKotale field site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to our focus on sexual interactions, we identified preferred partners for other social activities such as giving support in conflicts. We also collected urine to measure the hormone oxytocin, which is released in the body in other species after friendly social interactions, including sex and helps to promote cooperation.
We found that in competitive situations, females preferred to have sex with other females rather than with males. After sex, females often remained closer to each other than did mixed sex pairs, and females had measurable increases in urinary oxytocin following sex with females, but not following sex with males. Among same-sex and opposite-sex pairs, individuals who had more sex also supported each other more often in conflicts, but the majority of these coalitions were formed among females. “It may be that a greater motivation for cooperation among females, mediated physiologically by oxytocin, is the key to understanding how females attain high dominance ranks in bonobo society” explained co-lead author Surbeck.
For humans as well, alliances between members of the same sex provide many benefits, including mutual social support and sharing of resources. There is also historical and cross-cultural evidence that such alliances are often reinforced through sexual interactions. “While it is important to not equate human homosexuality with same-sex sexual behavior in animals, our study suggests that in both humans and a close phylogenetic relative, the evolution of same-sex sexual behavior may have provided new pathways to promote high levels of cooperation” states co-lead author Moscovice.
Jordan Martin publishes the research he has done during his time at Emory. Martin and his colleagues find that ‘masculinized’ facial morphology associates with both aggressive and affiliative dominance behavior in bonobos (Pan paniscus), one of human’s closest living relatives. Their study suggests that developmental androgen exposure may cause associations between facial morphology, personality, and dominance status in both humans and non-human primates.
Dr. Justin Pargeter and colleagues, including Dr. Dietrich Stout, present a multidisciplinary study of Late Acheulean handaxe-making skill acquisition in the latest edition of the Journal of Human Evolution. Their results identify cognitive targets of tool-making skill acquisition, learning costs, and highlight the importance of social support, motivation, persistence, and self-control in knapping skill acquisition.