Human beings are the products of millions of years of evolution by natural selection. Sometime in the last 5 million years, natural selection created a creature with a very large brain that walked upright, was adept at making and using tools, developed language, and came to rely heavily on imitation, social learning, and culture. Biological anthropologists study all facets of this process. Biological anthropology is interesting and important because an evolutionary perspective provides a rich source of insight about why we are the way we are.
The program in biological anthropology at UCLA focuses on four areas of research:
- Evolutionary Theory: Mathematical studies of how evolutionary processes work.
- Primate Behavior: Field studies of free ranging primates that aim to show how natural selection has molded the bodies and behavior of our closest living relatives.
- Hominid Evolution: Studies of the fossil and archaeological record which help us understand the ecological and social factors that have shaped human evolutionary history.
- Evolutionary Psychology and Ecology: Field and laboratory studies of of contemporary human psychology and behavior rooted in the evolutionary paradigm.
…we place strong emphasis on evolutionary processes that mold behavior. (We) are commited to understanding how these processes have shaped the behavior of living primates, fossil hominids, and contemporary humans. We take the role of culture seriously..(and) share an interest in how and why culture emerged, and how culture interacts with other processes to shape behavior.