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Social and Technological Responses to Risk and Uncertainty: A Material Culture Approach
In both the past and present, human populations are consistently presented with unpredictable situations. Behavioral responses to these situations are often heavily mediated by our degree of knowledge (uncertainty) about the variability in outcomes (risk). Using social network analysis as well as a novel macro-evolutionary method for examining the mode and tempo of evolution, this research explores changes in material culture diversity in response to increased environmental and economic risk. Results from this research suggest that social networks can be an important mechanism for reducing hunter-gatherer uncertainty surrounding environmental fluctuations, but technological innovations do not tend to buffer economic risk, as is commonly thought. Overall, these findings help to highlight some of the misconceptions surrounding risk and support the continued analysis of risk-sensitive adaptations using material culture.