Suicide is an evolutionary puzzle. Most theorists reasonably assume that suicide is a pathology or an unfortunate byproduct of one or several adaptations, but evolutionary theorists also recognize that increasing fitness can entail risks or come at the expense of survival. The bargaining model of suicidal behavior frames non-lethal attempts, which far outnumber completions, as costly signals of need in the face of severe fitness threats. Kristen and her colleagues tested this and other evolutionary models using data from 53 unique cultures. Forced or thwarted marriages, social condemnation, and the victim having committed a transgression were common precursors to lethal and non-lethal suicidal behavior. She will discuss the social conditions that commonly lead to suicidal behavior and how evolutionary theory can help make sense of the tragedy of self-inflicted death.
Kristen Syme is a PhD student in Anthropology at WSU. She received her BA in anthropology from the University of Delaware where she developed an interest in using evolutionary theory to investigate mental health and behavioral phenomena that are diagnosed and treated as diseases and deviations. Her research interests broadly concern the evolved interpersonal functions of psychological and behavioral phenomena.
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