Article

Human Adaptability

Daniel E. Brown

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0047
Human Adaptability

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  • Anthropology
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The field of human adaptability is a subdiscipline within the broader field of biological anthropology. Human adaptability focuses on the flexibility with which humans, both as individuals and as populations, cope with environmental challenges, through both biological and behavioral/cultural means. Researchers in this field take a biocultural perspective on human ecology, attempting to integrate approaches used in human biology with those more common in cultural and social anthropology. Because of the complexity of the subject, many studies within human adaptability have focused on a single environmental challenge, such as extreme temperatures, low oxygen pressures at high altitude, or exposure to infectious diseases. However, humans are often exposed to a multitude of challenges simultaneously, thus necessitating moving beyond a view of single challenges to a more comprehensive approach to the various stressors confronting individuals or populations. Research in human adaptability takes account of the nature of the stressors in the environment, including their intensity, duration, frequency, and predictability. Also, the characteristics of responses by humans are studied, including time to engage, strength, duration, frequency, and reversibility. Moreover, research must account for whether responses are made by individuals or are joint responses requiring cooperation from others within, or outside, the population. Responses may be evaluated in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, or riskiness.

Article.  6682 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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