Michelle Ann Kline
Assistant Professor | Simon Fraser University
Welcome! I'm an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. I earned my PhD in Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. I study human behavior and development through the lens of cultural evolutionary theory. My research focuses primarily on social learning, in places and communities beyond Western societies. My current field site is in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji.
You can download my most recent CV here.
Culture, Behavior, Evolution, and Development | @CUBEDLab
Evolution of Teaching
More than other species, humans depend upon socially learned information -- culture -- for our survival and adaptation to novel environments. What we learn varies across sociocultural contexts, but with this project I investigate variation in how humans learn. Teaching plays a major role in this story.
Through cumulative culture, humans create, use, modify, and pass on technologies that are too complex for any one person to have invented in a single lifetime. This applies equally from smartphones to traditional medicine. Through this project, I ask how learners balance new ideas with old, and their own insights with what they learn from others.
Social Networks & Learning
Within populations, people vary in what they know, and who they learn from. With this project, my collaborators and I ask how variation in traditional knowledge emerges from patterns of social interaction, and study its effects on physical health and well-being.
Cultural Evolution & Sustainability
Consumption is easy to understand: consuming more means we're more likely to survive and reproduce. Less intuitive is an understanding of why and how humans might manage resources for sustainable consumption. This project leverages cultural evolutionary theory to talk about how human groups may be able to solve sustainability problems.
Yasawa Islands, Fiji | 2008 - present
Yasawa Island, Fiji
I conduct field work in villages on Yasawa Island, the last in the Yasawan archipelago in the Northwestern region of the Fijian Islands.
Horticultural & fishing villages, in a tourism-based national economy
Villages on Yasawa Island are typically composed of around 200 people, subsisting on horticulture and fishing. This matters for studies of learning because it means that village residents need to master traditional subsistence skills to be successful in the community. Daily social life is structured largely by kinship relationships, and kinship is organized by patrilineal clans.
Collaborators, Research Assistants, and Village Residents all play roles in the research.
I began work on Yasawa Island in 2008, and have been lucky to work with a great combination of academic researchers, as well as Indigenous Fijian (iTaukei) research assistants from mainland Fiji and from Yasawa Island itself. During research, all members of the team live and work in the village (see our lab photo, left), and eat meals with a host family - so the village residents are more than just research participants, they are a part of the field team's support system and crucial to making the research possible.
Kline, M.A. 2016. TEACH: An Ethogram-based Method to Observe and Record Teaching Behavior. Field Methods. doi: 10.1177/1525822X16669282
Henrich, J., R. Boyd, M. Derex, M.A. Kline, A. Mesoudi, M. Muthukrishna, A. Powell, S. Shennan, M. Thomas. 2016. Understanding Cumulative Cultural Evolution: A Reply to Vaesen, Collard, et al. [Letter to the Editor]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(44): E6724-E6725. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1610005113
Kline, M.A. 2015. How to learn about teaching: An evolutionary framework for the study of teaching behavior in humans and other animals. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, epub, 1-71. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X14000090
Waring, T., M.A. Kline, J. Brooks, S. Goff, J. Gowdy, P. Smaldino, J. Jacquet, M. Janssen. 2015. A multilevel cultural evolutionary theory of sustainability. Ecology and Society, 20(2): 569-58. doi: 10.5751/ES-07634-200234
Manson, J., M.M. Gervais, D.M.T. Fessler, M.A. Kline. 2014. Subclinical primary psychopathy, but not physical formidability or attractiveness, predicts conversational dominance in a zero-acquaintance situation. PLOS ONE, 9(11): e113135. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113135
Kline, M.A., R. Boyd, J. Henrich. 2013. Teaching and the life history of cultural transmission in Fijian villages. Human Nature, 24(4): 351-374. doi: 10.1007/s12110-013-9180-1
Manson, J.H., G.A. Bryant, M.M. Gervais, M.A. Kline. 2013. Convergence of speech rate in conversation predicts cooperation. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(6): 419-426. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.08.001
Kline, M.A., R. Boyd. 2010. Population size predicts technological complexity in Oceania. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 277: 2559–2564. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0452
Kline, M.A., R. Shamsudheen, T. Broesch. (Invited, submitted). Does working with culture work out in Developmental Psychology? In issue: Bridging cultural gaps: Interdisciplinary studies in human cultural evolution, Philosophical Transactions B. Eds: N. Creanza, O. Kolodny, M. Feldman: 1-8.
C. Moya, M. Borgerhoff Mulder, H. Colleran, D. Gerkey, M.A. Gibson, M. Gurven, J. Henrich, P. Hooper, H.S. Kaplan, M.A. Kline, J.M. Koster, K.L. Kramer, D. Leonetti, S. Mattison, D. Nath, C. Sanders, B.A. Scelza, M.K. Shenk, K. Snopkowski, J. Stieglitz, M.C. Towner, C.R. von Rueden, J. Ziker, R. Sear. (Submitted). Intergenerational conflict may explain why parents delay the onset of their children’s reproduction: A cross-cultural analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 1-21.
Kline, M.A., T. Waring, J. Salerno. (Invited, under review). Designing cultural multilevel selection research for sustainability science. In issue: Applying Cultural Evolution to Sustainability Challenges, Sustainability Science. Eds: J. Brooks.
Kline, M.A., M.M. Gervais, C. Moya, R. Boyd. (In preparation). Imitating irrelevant actions: Temporal instability and varying developmental trajectories in two small-scale populations.
Kline, M.A. (In preparation). Forms and functions of teaching in early childhood: Evidence from focal follows in Fijian villages.
Upper Level Courses
Graduate Level Courses
Diversity in Culture and Development (upcoming, Spring 2018)
The Evolution of Cultural Evolution
Accepting students to SFU's Psychology PhD Program
I will be accepting students to the PhD program at Simon Fraser University, in the 2017-18 application cycle. I am especially interested in students who focus on cross-cultural or evolutionary approaches to developmental psychology. Interest in conducting fieldwork (whether at home or abroad) is a plus. Please contact me via email if you are considering applying. Students from under-represented groups are especially encouraged to reach out to me and apply. Check out my page on Teaching & Mentoring to see whether you think we may work well together.
@CUBEDLab Needs Undergraduate Research Assistants!
If you are an undergraduate who wants to get your hands into a research project, this may be an opportunity for you. I am looking for research assistants to contribute to several ongoing projects. Please contact me via email if you may be interested. Students from under-represented groups are especially encouraged to reach out to me and apply.