Fall 2021 San Diego Community College Student Anthropology Journal

Edited by Laura Young

Published by Arnie Schoenberg

Cover photo: "celebrando el Día Mundial de la Bicicleta afuera del Museo de Almería, mural de Mazuni"


Volume 5 Issue 2

Fall, 2021

latest update: 7/7/22

Creative Commons License CC BY-NC

Unless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

More issues at http://arnieschoenberg.com/anth/journal/

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Table of Contents

Using the Science of Anthropology to Make our World a Better Place” by Dean T. Hall

Do primates have a social hierarchy? The observation of Orangutan and Siamang during feeding time” by Elizabeth Cook

The Connections Between Alcohol Tolerance in Humans and Non-Human Primates” by Paul Herrmann

Race and aggression” by MaTeeSa Yessa

The Instinct to Create: The Anthropological Wonders of Human Art & Creative Expression” by Nylah Abercrombie

“Using the Science of Anthropology to Make our World a Better Place” by Dean T. Hall

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, ensuring equal rights to citizens regardless of sex. Since that time the needed two thirds of state legislatures have ratified this amendment; however, the National Archivist hasn’t ratified this amendment because the Congress placed a deadline for its ratification. Sadly, this very important Constitutional Amendment has stalled.  As a student of anthropology, I wondered if I could use what I have learned to make a difference in the life of this very important Constitutional Amendment.  I discovered that I could in fact use the science of Anthropology to address social concerns in our modern era; many scientists are using Applied Anthropology to do just that.  In fact, Dennis O’Neil (2012) states, “a third of all anthropologists use this knowledge and methodology of problem solving for practical purposes in corporations, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, medical institutions and other non-academic settings”. 

Using my study of non-human primates, I was intrigued at how unremarkable and ordinary same-sex sexual behavior occurred within the societies of our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom. Specifically, how in our closest nonhuman primate relatives there is no ostracization, isolation, alienation or rejection of group members based on same-sex sexual behavior, and according to P. L. Vasey and D. Forrester, same-sex sexual behavior can be found in all 30 species of apes and monkeys (2015). These nonhumans appear to see this as “normal” and “natural” contrary to what conservative religions have preached and taught to the detriment of society as a whole. While we can’t really make any definitive conclusions about human sexuality based on nonhuman sexuality for a myriad of reasons, including culture, brain development and sophistication of our species, it is interesting that despite how “advanced” Homo sapiens are, that we do a much poorer job at acceptance and inclusion than our nonhuman primate relatives who are “wild and savage”. Consequently,  I wanted to see if we could learn to do better as a society by watching and imitating their behavior.

My overall goal was to create a petition to amend the Equal Rights Act (ERA), to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of citizens. I chose the ERA specifically since it hasn’t been ratified and there is some disagreement on whether or not the National Archivist is required to, due to Congress establishing deadlines for its ratification. My desire is to see it amended from its original 1923 form and create some momentum that will help us overcome the shame of not having done the right thing by women in our country in ratifying this important Constitutional Amendment.  Could I use my power as a male and using what I have learned from reading the textbook and numerous articles on nonhuman primate same- sex, sexual behavior to help improve the world in which I live?

For my campaign, I chose a three-pronged approach. First, I created a Petition in which I would gather signatures. I don’t have any social media accounts so I had to enlist others to help spread the word via their Facebook accounts. I emailed a short list of people. Honestly, I had very little expectation for a successful petition because of my lack of engagement in social media. For me this was specifically an exercise in connecting what I am learning as a student of anthropology to a “real” life issue. We can use science to help us solve social problems! 

My second approach was to write letters to my member of Congress, Rep. Darrel Issa, Sens. Alex Padilla,  Diane Feinstein,  and President Biden.  The final phase of my campaign was to write a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union Tribune.  You will find copies of my petition, the letters to the politicians, and the letter to the editor below.

  Appendix A: petition

a screen shot of a change.org petition, with website options, the title, a piture of two white male hands clasped togehter, each wearing a rainbow wrist band over a black background, statistics about the petition, and text boxes to enter information.

"Screen shot of the petition" https://www.change.org/p/congress-amending-the-era-to-include-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity

Amending the Equal Rights Amendment/ERA to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Dean Hall started this petition to Congress and 2 others.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity deserve to be protected classes under the constitution of the United States, and the Equal Rights Amendment, is the best place to ensure that they are protected. As a gay man this is very important to me; if you do not identify with these categories, it may not be that important, but I hope that you will at least read the entire petition before deciding.

I am an anthropology student and have been studying the behavior of our nearest relatives, nonhuman primates. I was fascinated to learn about how diverse they are when it comes to sexual behavior. In fact, according to Vasey and Forrester, same sex sexual behavior has been identified in 30 species of monkeys and apes. More interestingly, however, is that there are zero documented incidents of ostracization, isolation or alienation as a result of engaging in same sex sexual behaviors  We can learn a lot from these nonhuman primate relatives of ours.

If our nonhuman primate relatives, who are in their natural environment, consider same sex sexual behavior "normal"  and "acceptable", what is keeping us from doing the same. We as human beings are equally as interdependent on each other for our survival as they are. We need all members of our society to thrive. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to the ERA is one way we can ensure that we all thrive. 

So please, sign this petition and Amend the ERA to include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as a way of bringing our human family together.

Vasey, P. L., Forrester, D. (2015). Homosexuality in nonhuman primates and humans. The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, First Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Appendix B: letter to Congress

President and Members of Congress Letter

Washington, DC 2000

October 27, 2021

Honorable Member of Congress:

My studies of nonhuman primate behavior have compelled me to write to you about a very important issue to me, Amending the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of citizens. At this point you might be asking yourself what the connection is between nonhuman primates, and the effort to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes? Anthropology is the scientific study of human development which can help us understand ourselves and our world in new ways including how we might do better with each other, in the here and now. They are totally and inextricably connected.

While science doesn’t always help us connect our own behavior to origins within the nonhuman primate world, it can shed some interesting light at how our behavior is in some respects less sophisticated than theirs. This should cause us to pause and rethink our own behavior. For example, the researchers, Paul Vasey and D.L. Forrester from the University of Lethbridge, have discovered that same-sex sexual behavior occurs in 30 species of monkeys and apes. What they don’t find, however, is a single incident of ostracization, isolation, or alienation as a result of this behavior. There aren’t families disowning their children, children aren’t left to survive anyway they can! They are fully integrated members of their primate society.

If our nonhuman primate relatives, who in their natural environment consider same sex sexual behavior "normal” and "acceptable", what is keeping us from doing the same. We as human beings are equally as interdependent on each other for our survival as they are out in the wild. We need all members of our society to thrive. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to the ERA is one way we can ensure that we all thrive.

So, I am asking that you support any and all legislation including Amending the ERA, that has as its goal including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of citizens.


Dean T. Hall

 Appendix C: letter to editor

 Dear Editor of the San Diego Union Tribune:

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, ensuring equal rights to citizens regardless of sex. Since that time the needed two thirds of state legislatures have ratified this amendment. However, the National Archivist hasn’t ratified this amendment because the Congress placed a deadline for its ratification. Sadly, this very important Constitutional Amendment has stalled. There are pieces of legislation HJ 17 which was passed in the house on March 17, 2021, removing the time limits. Its counterpart in the Senate, SJ1 is still awaiting a vote.  I would like to propose that we amend the ERA to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of citizens.

I propose this change based on my studies of nonhuman primates, and specifically their response to same-sex behavior within their societies.   Researchers like P. Vasey and D. Forrester, have observed same-sex, sexual behavior in 30 species of apes and monkeys, which shouldn’t be surprising due to our knowledge of the prevalence of same-sex sexual behavior throughout the animal kingdom. However, the surprising fact is that they found zero incidents of ostracization, isolation, alienation or rejection of those members of their society who engaged in same-sex sexual behavior. Our closest, nonhuman primate relatives accept and include members who engage in same-sex sexual behavior as integral members of their society. I think there is a lesson here for us! The lesson is that we need everyone in our community, in order to thrive and survive.

It is my desire, that if we can amend this amendment, we might find the momentum we need to do the right thing by not only women but the LGBTQIA+ members of our society as well. We owe it to ourselves and our community. Write to your member of congress and encourage them to do the right thing!


Dean T. Hall

Works Cited

O'Neil, D. (2012). Fields of Anthropology. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from www2.palomar.edu

Vasey, P. L., Forrester, D. (2015). Homosexuality in nonhuman primates and humans. The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, First Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 Author’s Bio

I am a 50 year old student pursuing my Masters Degree in Social Work, by way of a Bachelors in Psychology. I have attended 5 different colleges and universities including, The Citadel-The Military College of South Carolina, Georgia Perimeter College, Midlands Technical College, The University of South Carolina and San Diego City College.  There are large gaps in my history of attending schools due to various reasons including immaturity, addiction and not staying the course. Just for today, all of that is behind me and I am completing one semester at a time.  I also love learning. 

By day, I am a Substance Abuse Counselor and have worked in some capacity within social service organizations since the early 90’s. I started my non-profit career as a case manager for an AIDS service organization. After that I spent a year working at a non-profit in Mexico City, El Instituto Mexicano de Investigaciones de la Familia y la Poblacion. After returning back to the US I worked for a Latino Community based organization in South Carolina, two unions (UFCW and SEIU) all before my addiction and coming to my current field of work. 

“Do primates have a social hierarchy? The observation of Orangutan and Siamang during feeding time” by Elizabeth Cook

 I conducted an observational study of primates in their enclosures at the San Diego Zoo. At the zoo, I closely observed the orangutan and siamang enclosure during feeding time to see whether primates do in fact have a social hierarchy, and if that hierarchy is greatly affected when food enters the equation. Orangutans and siamangs live in the same forest levels of the Sumatran rainforests, but we don't know much about their interactions in the wild. I observed their rates of movement, feeding behaviors, and social interactions. l then used external scientific resources to interpret the observational data to confirm or deny my hypothesis. 

 I hypothesize that the social hierarchy within a community of orangutans has an observable effect on eating behavior. 

Primatology is the scientific study of primates, and directly ties into the study of Anthropology. Biologically the human genome is almost identical with that of the bonobo, making the bonobo the most closely related species to human beings. This sets the evolutionary foundation for linking humans with primates.

Looking at primatology from a paleoanthropological/paleontological standpoint, you can trace back the lineage of humanity that actually brings us to a wide variety of humanoid species that once co-existed on earth together. The same can be said today for primates. Paleontologists have shown us that there are key identifying features that differentiate one species from another. Fossil remains from the past have shown evidence of the transition from primate to human that took place over hundreds of thousands of years.  

Language and art are said to be some of the defining characteristics of humans. Linguistic anthropologists have blurred this line through studies of primates utilizing complex language and also partaking in recreational art. 

Advanced mammals can have really social lives, whether they live in migrative communities, or prowl marked territory in a more solo lifestyle. The social mechanics of primate communities are still being studied extensively today. They share the most similar social constructs to humans of all mammals, and reveal a glimpse of where studied human behavior may have come from.    

 I conducted three hours of total observation in two 1.5 hour intervals. Both observation periods were conducted at the starting time of 1600 with a 48 hour separation between recording periods. Observation was line-of-sight behind a glass barrier with brief interruptions in observation due to recording and note taking. Limitations to this observational method include but are not limited to the following- the subjects being able to see and react to the observers through a two-way glass barrier, uncontrollable and random foot-traffic and interaction between the subjects and other customers of the San Diego Zoo, uncontrollable noise and directed language to the subjects from customers that could affect the subjects behavior, and interaction between San Diego Zoo staff members and the subjects from within the internal environment of the zoo enclosure itself. Also, a single siamang that was within the observational study environment that may have had an affect on the subjects at hand (two adult orangutans). For the case of this study “Movement” of a subject includes the changing of a position in space that is noticeably greater than a body-length of said subject. It is important to make the distinction between what could be perceived as shifting, reaching, or changing body position. Some factors that could have an affect on this observation could include season (seasonal changes in behavior like mating season or bulking before winter etc.), weather (gloomy, rainy days = low activity / low visibility and vice versa), and time of day (afternoon naps vs dinner time vs infant sleep schedules etc.).

Overall the activity levels of the orangutans was observed to prioritize energy conservation. A general lethargy, lack of alertness, and slow response to stimulus was observed in the orangutans. During the first 1.5 hour observational period the two orangutans were recorded moving from their original position a total of 3 times. 2 of these instances were provoked by food being introduced into the environment from zoo staff. During the second 1.5 hour observation period the subjects moved positions 4 times total. This is an average rate of movement of 2.33 instances of movement per hour when observed during a feeding period. The primates are seen making high-low ground changes when eating around other community members. I observed a clear hierarchy of who gets what food and from where (alpha gets best / mother and babies get best).

After observing these primates it is clear to me that there is a social hierarchy present that has a direct correlation with feeding time, therefore, making the hypothesis that the social hierarchy within a community of orangutans having an observable effect on eating behavior sustainable. 

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance states “If a male accidentally swings into a territory occupied by a more dominant male, the dominant male gives a booming roar called a ‘long call’ to scare off the intruder” (San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Animals and Plants, 2021). I found that this article on orangutans directly related to my observational study, as seen when the orangutan gave a non-verbal “look” to the siamang and the siamang gave back his territory (moved down a rung on the ladder). This is a great example of a hierarchy related to the food source that they both share. 

Larissa Swedell with Primate Sociality and Social Systems states, 

Many primates and other animals live in social groups. In social groups, individual members coordinate their activities, communicate with one another, and interact in both affiliative (friendly) and agonistic (aggressive or submissive) ways Individuals must share food resources, water resources, sleeping sites, and mates. While usually mediated by dominance hierarchies in which higher-ranking individuals have priority of access to limited resources, aggressive competition over food and mates is common in primates. [Swedell, 2021]

She is explaining why primates form social groups, the types of social groups, and variables that may cause aggression within primate hierarchies. You can find an excellent example of this in my observations where the siamang waits for the orangutans to get what they want from the food before taking their share. That clearly shows them respecting their place in the primate social group and coordinating with their superiors. 

Studies have shown that food competition is one of the main driving factors in facilitating the social hierarchy of chimpanzees. It is also important to consider that the territories that opposing chimpanzee communities fight over are driven by the local food resources in these territories. Therefore, being in the zoo two major influencing factors are immediately taken away from social communities of chimpanzees.The dominance of the more formidable male chimpanzee is not rewarded, and there is also no need for this dominant male by his community to defend territory that safeguards food resources, therefore there is really no need for an alpha male in a situation where everything is practically handed to them. This makes the hierarchy in the zoo much different from the hierarchy in the wild. 

At first glance the hierarchy established within this environment may be considered unhealthy for the siamang outlier. Physical prowess being the most obvious factor, the siamang genetically had almost no chance to compete with the larger primates for social dominance. This suggests an almost caste-system-like lifestyle, but is vital for these primates to co-exist with one-another without inflicting harm.

“Primates fight to see who's on top, and then make-up to keep the group together. Agonistic behavior helps to establish dominance hierarchies, and is usually followed by reconciliation, a kind of affiliative behavior” (Schoenberg, 2021). This type of behavior can also be seen between species, when the orangutan allows the siamang to eat at his branch at a lower level instead of persisting with the original conflict. 

I hypothesized that the social hierarchy within a community of orangutans has an observable effect on eating behavior. This observational study confirmed my hypothesis as there were observable social behaviors between members of this small, but socially regimented community of primates. Though it has held true for a long time that primates live very social and community-oriented lives, there is still much we can learn from studying them in regards to the social development of animals and perhaps even of human beings. 

Works Cited

Orangutan. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Animals and Plants. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/orangutan. 

Owens, B. (2016, February 24). "Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals." New Scientist. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2078781-wild-gorillas-compose-happy-songs-that-they-hum-during-meals/#ixzz780HW95Fb.

Schoenberg , A. (2021). "5.3.6 Affiliative Behavior." Introduction to Physical Anthropology.

Schoenberg , A. (2021). "5.3.5. Agonistic Behavior." Introduction to Physical Anthropology.

Swedell , L. (2012). "Primate Sociality and Social Systems." Nature news. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/primate-sociality-and-social-systems-58068905/. 

 Author’s Bio

Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth but everyone has always called me BB. I am pursuing my bachelors degree in business administration with a focus on entrepreneurship. I have been to a handful of schools thus far thanks to the military moving my family around for the past 4 years. We are finally stationed somewhere long enough for me to get my associates transfer degree to SDSU. I am currently a San Diego Realtor and I plan on using my degree to start my own investment business with my husband. 

“The Connections Between Alcohol Tolerance in Humans and Non-Human Primates” by Paul Herrmann

In this article I use a Robert Dudley book and a variety of articles to show that our affinity for alcohol can be traced back to our non-human primate ancestors. Alcohol is an integral part of our modern society. From celebration to mourning, from sports and live events to family holidays, our culture is saturated in it. This seems to go back to our earliest ancestors. Current estimates date the use of alcohol by humans at roughly 7000 BCE, according to Robert Dudley, in his book The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol. Dudley highlights the fact that not only humans, but primates as well as other animals can be observed consuming alcohol, and that “alcohol can be used by all fruit-eating animals as a reliable long-distance indicator of the presence of sugars.” Being a source of calories and sugar make it an ideal snack for everything from fruit flies to primates. Is our enjoyment of and ability to develop a tolerance to alcohol linked to our primate ancestors who ate rotting fruit that gave them a euphoric experience?

Anthropology is loosely translated to “the study of humans” in Greek, although it generally also includes non-human primates. Of the four main subfields of anthropology, being cultural, linguistic, archaeology and biological/physical anthropology, this relates most closely to the latter. Biological anthropology is focused on the study of how humans evolved, and human biosocial variation. Essentially, where did we come from, and how do various species differ from one another. One could also argue that alcohol is a cultural issue, which is valid, but our physical ability to develop a tolerance for and metabolize alcohol, and to enjoy the sense of euphoria is similar to that of our non-human primate relatives. Granted, humans have perfected the process of fermenting and distilling alcohol versus finding fermented fruit, but our tree swinging cousins likely enjoyed the buzz much like we do. The idea of monkeys enjoying alcohol is also cemented in our culture, being represented in film for years. There is even a local coffee maker here in San Diego that has a blend called “Drunk Monkey”, and it happens to be my personal favorite.

Primatology, or the study of non-human primates is key to this discussion. For us to truly understand the link between our affinity and tolerance for alcohol and how it correlates to non-human primates, we must first have a basic understanding of evolution in general. Evolution is the process by which species adapt to their environment and advance their survival through genetic modifications over the course of many generations. We know there is a direct connection between genes and behavior. Just as certain non-primate groups like bonobos can have what is known as competitive promiscuity to elevate their status in the hierarchy, so too can humans drink competitively to enhance status in their own hierarchy. Being able to “drink someone under the table” has long been a sign of perceived strength and masculinity in various cultures throughout the world. The knowledge that non-human primates like chimpanzees and bonobos can seek out fermented fruit and enjoy the intoxicating effects is one of many similarities we share with these distant relatives. Whether or not we developed this trait directly from them or not is still open to some debate. We do know there is a polygenic component to alcohol use disorders, and people’s tolerance varies wildly, but we have not been able to identify a specific gene that makes one more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder or have a higher tolerance.

The impairing effects of alcohol on our motor functions and decision-making abilities is well documented, as is our ability to develop a tolerance to alcohol. Fields like epigenetics help us confirm there is in fact a genetic link to alcoholism. Bela G. Starkman, Amul J. Sakharkar, and Subash C. Pandey explore this topic in their article “Epigenetics-Beyond the Genome in Alcoholism'' noting “other evidence has identified DNA methylation as a critical regulator of gene expression levels, which also may play a critical role in alcoholism.” While much of our genetic links to alcoholism remain unclear, we do know that with regular use our body becomes more efficient at processing alcohol with the use of enzymes, allowing us to consume even more alcohol. Along with negative impacts to physical health, alcohol also has a high potential for addiction. Alcohol use disorders are incredibly destructive, and expensive. In 2010, alcohol abuse cost the country $249 billion dollars, which comes out to roughly $807 per person (CDC). They factor in things like alcohol related car accidents, health care costs, lost productivity, and the expense of our criminal justice system. Roughly 95,000 people die every year because of alcohol abuse. Something that is so costly and deadly, yet deeply ingrained in our culture should be studied and analyzed to discover methods to avoid the costs and negative consequences associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

To fully understand our genetic predisposition to alcohol, we must look back to our primate ancestors. Various primate groups such as gorillas and gibbons ate ripened fruit. However, as Dudley points out, our idea of ripe fruit in a grocery store is different from fruit growing in nature, especially in areas where multiple species such as primates and fruit flies are competing for the sugar and calories they can find in a piece of ripe or rotting fruit. This makes finding ripe fruit in tropical or forest type environments difficult.

Our affinity for alcohol is clear, so let us explore if this is connected to our primate cousins seeking out fermented fruit, if they did so to experience intoxication themselves, and if evolution has played a part in our ability to metabolize alcohol and develop tolerance.

The reasons that primates, much like other animals including birds, enjoy fruit is for the high caloric intake and the sugar it offers. Fruits emit odor when they ripen, and when they begin to ferment. As Dudley highlights, “As long as both sugar and these yeasts are present in fruit, some alcohol will be available as a reliable wind-borne message indicating the presence of calories somewhere upwind” (Dudley, pg. 55). Because there would be high competition for fruit in the wild, it makes sense that primates would eat fermented or rotting fruit in addition to ripe fruit.

It was long thought that primates did not have the ability to smell or taste the alcohol molecule. But recent research has challenged that conclusion and proven that multiple primate species can not only taste the ethanol molecule, but other alcohol molecules produced because of fermentation (Dudley, pg. 56). The stronger the odor, the more sugar can be found in the pulp, making it more attractive for a source of calories. One can easily see how this strong odor, indicating high calories, would draw primates to this fruit. Is this genetic instinct passed down to humans, drawing us to alcohol for nutritional sustenance? Dudley believes so, and notes that with alcohol being readily available to humans in modern societies at a much higher concentration than that of fermented fruits, the potential for addiction increases. He states, “Alcoholism is well known to be partially heritable (chapter 6), which is consistent with the possibility that this disease derives, at least in part, from foraging behaviors that once were adaptive” (Dudley, pg. 67).

While there is debate and little research exploring whether primates will eat fermented fruit with the intention of intoxicating effects, we do know that they can identify the molecule by odor and taste, and that they do seek it out. This at least opens the door that evolution plays a role in human’s attraction to the molecule. We know that humans were using fermentation to produce alcohol as far back as 7000 BCE, and possibly thousands of years before that. In these early times of fermentation, most liquids would contain an alcohol percentage of no more than 15% (Dudley, pg. 74). Once vapor distillation was discovered by Greek alchemists in 100 CE, we now had a process that could help increase the concentration of alcohol in liquid form. This process was also used in China to make “burnt wine”. Once this process was refined and perfected over generations, highly concentrated alcohol became a mainstay throughout most of the world.

We do have evidence that humans can develop a tolerance to alcohol. For example, we have evidence to suggest that binge drinkers build a tolerance to alcohol, resulting in acute tolerance to the physically impairing effects of alcohol intoxication. Mark Fillmore and Jessica Weafer did controlled studies showing heavy drinkers will have an acute tolerance that allows them to perform better than light or moderate drinkers after consuming alcohol in various physical tasks involving motor skills (Fillmore and Weafer).

We have also seen that one can “train” oneself to increase one's acute tolerance to alcohol by increasing their drinking for a short time. Martinez, Steinley and Sher did research regarding college students drinking heavily with the goal of increasing their tolerance for events where they plan to consume large amounts of alcohol, such as a frat party or for their birthday. This competitive style of drinking not only shows that humans will put forth effort to develop a tolerance, but that we will use similar methods to our primate ancestors to elevate our social station. Just as chimpanzees will have “competitive promiscuity” to help determine their hierarchy, college students will attempt to out drink each other for status. This is obviously problematic in multiple ways, specifically from a public health and safety perspective.

In conclusion, there is strong evidence that humans can develop a tolerance to alcohol through heavy consumption, which can lead to addiction. There is also evidence that non-human primates can identify and seek out certain alcohol molecules, and evidence to suggest they can enjoy the intoxicating effects. While we do not have firm evidence that shows a direct link between our ability to metabolize alcohol or develop a tolerance to it from our non-human primate ancestors, it makes sense that the high caloric intake would make fermenting fruit attractive to non-human primates, and that the instinct to seek out certain alcohol molecules could be passed down to us. Alcohol abuse is obviously costly and a major health concern, and the better we understand the origins of where this genetic predisposition to over consume alcohol comes from, the better we will be able to address the problem at the root cause, with better results than what we currently see with modern medical and therapeutic techniques. We still have much to learn about ourselves as a species and looking back through a lens of evolution and primatology is an effective way to explore these genetic mysteries.

 Works Cited

"Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy." CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/features/excessive-drinking.html

Dudley, Robert; (2014) The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol. University of California Press.

Filmore, Mark T., Weafer, Jessica, Maisto, Stephen A. (2012). "Acute Tolerance to Alcohol in At-Risk Binge Drinkers." Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Vol. 26, p. 693-702. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22023021/

Fillmore, Mark T. (2003). "Alcohol Tolerance in Humans Is Enhanced by Prior Caffeine Antagonism of Alcohol-Induced Impairment." Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2003-02, Vol.11 (1), p.9-17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12622339/

Martinez, Julia A; Steinley, Douglas; Sher, Kenneth J. (2009). "Deliberate induction of alcohol tolerance: empirical introduction to a novel health risk." Addiction (Abingdon, England), 2010-10, Vol.105 (10), p.1767-1770. https://caccl-sdccd.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01CACCL_SDCCD/ffogn2/cdi_pubmedcentral_primary_oai_pubmedcentral_nih_gov_4708259

 Sarala, Marian; Miettunen, Jouko ; Koskela, Jari ; Mustonen, Antti ; Rose, Richard J ; Hurtig, Tuula ; Veijola, Juha ; Niemelä, Solja (2020)" Frequent intoxication and alcohol tolerance in adolescence: associations with psychiatric disorders in young adulthood." Addiction (Abingdon, England), 2020-05, Vol.115 (5), p.888-900. https://caccl-sdccd.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01CACCL_SDCCD/ffogn2/cdi_crossref_primary_10_1111_add_14889

Starkman, Bela G; Sakharkar, Amul J; Pandey, Subash C (2012) “Epigenetics-Beyond the Genome in Alcoholism”, NCBI, 34(3): 293–305. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860414/

Authors Bio

My name is Paul Herrmann, and along with being a student at City College, I work as a substance use disorder counselor for a local non-profit, working with at-risk populations of adult and adolescent clients.

My goal is to complete my AODS certificate at City College, and eventually transfer to SDSU and pursue a psychology degree. In time I hope to have the freedom to run my own practice, which allows for autonomy, travel, and a good work life balance. 

“Race and aggression” by MaTeeSa Yessa

As a student of anthropology, mediation, International Security, and Conflict Resolution, I study aggression and race, and I can’t help but notice that the media try to create a story that says some races are more aggressive than others. Articles and TV news outlets and their opposition try to convince me that white people are the most violent race over people who are black and vice-versa. I believe that aggression is not biological and so neither is race. The media tries to make it as if we have to hate one another because of our race by depicting false images. I believe humans are more peaceful than that, regardless of their race. As O’Shaughnessy states in the article, "Seeking Deeper Truths" that “there is no ‘beast within’ that makes us naturally violent; in fact, humans are the most successful large animal on the planet despite few natural defenses (claws, horns) because we are good at working things out with our big brains” (O’Shaughnessy 2015:1). I’m writing this not to take the side of any group or race, instead I hope to prevent negativity and misinformation in the media. I have observed that the media attempts to purport false narratives by focusing on specific aspects of a topic, and blowing it out of proportion due to political gain or opinion. In the holistic field of Anthropology, we need to look at something from all different perspectives including biological and environmental.

Anthropology is the study of humans and it has four subfields. The four main subfields of anthropology are cultural, linguistic, archaeology, and biological/physical anthropology. Biological anthropology is the study of how humans evolved from being a primate to modern-day humans. It is also the study of what makes us different. For example, we have different pigments in our skin not because it is biological, because of where we came from. People who live near the earth’s equator will have darker skin than people who live near the poles. Cultural anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures and their development. The way we live, the way we are brought up, and the way we act may all be a part of cultural anthropology. Lastly, primatology is the study of the behavior, biology, evolution, and taxonomy of nonhuman primates. With primatology, we can learn a lot of behavior from the non-human primates and see if the way we act is biological or something picked up. Do primates get aggressive, or are they just aggressive all the time? We can then apply that to humans. We can use the way nonhuman primates act and behave and compare it to our own behavior. I’m writing this to say the amount of aggression in our society is not biological but it is from our environment.

What is race? Race is not something that is biological but a characteristic of where someone originally comes from. Race is also not a biological thing, it is cultural. “The decision to group people based on superficial visual characteristics is not founded in absolute biological difference, but in a long history of cultural difference” (Schoenberg 2021, 7.4). Just because it is not a biological thing does not mean we should pretend it is not there. There is such a thing as race and many people are very proud of their race. Some people who say there is no race and say that they do not see color are trying to ignore the fact that there is an injustice to a different race in this country. “Its problematic biological status has led some to assume a ‘no-race’ stance that resonates with the colorblind ideology that has gained popularity in some segments of U.S. society” (Harrison 2021:1). Race is more than just the skin color of a person, but it is the history, and culture that a person has come from. 

What is aggression and where does it come from? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines aggression as a forceful action or procedure (such as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master. We as humans love peace and we would do anything to keep it that way. Primates and people mostly use aggression as a threat to intimidate others rather than resort to violence. Verbal threats do not carry the weight and consequences of physical harm. Primate aggression is a kind of agonistic behavior, and “it is usually more bluff and intimidation than physical violence” (Schoenberg 2021, 5.3.5). A person becomes aggressive when he has no control of what is surrounding him and what he has been through. “Aggression is not a uniform or consistent trait, so aggression per se cannot be favored by evolutionary pressures to form the basis of the human experience” (Fuentes 2012:1). Aggression is not something  that can be found in your biological cells but is environmental. Humans have a big brain and that is our biggest weapon and we like using it more than using physical violence. 

If race and aggression are not biological, can they coexist together? We have to look at the individual rather than the group. We need to look at the fact that we need each other and have to take down the system that is racism. There are factors such as racism and other discrimination that bring people and even society into chaos. There is no race that is good or bad because we can not find that in our biological selves. We need to celebrate and embrace race because it is what makes us culturally different. At the same time, we need to take down the system that separates us and makes us not like each other. The only way to do that is to educate and to spread knowledge.

I applied these ideas in writing the following letter to news outlets. 

Appendix A

News Outlet

Date: 04 November 2021

Subject: Aggression and race

Dear Fox News and CNN News Outlets,

My name is MaTeeSa Yessa. I’m from a Thailand refugee camp. I’m a student of Anthropology at San Diego City College and I have been studying aggression and race. I’m a student of mediation, International Security, and Conflict Resolution. Newspapers and TV news outlets try to convince me that white people are the most violent race compared to black people or vice-versa. I can’t help but notice that the media tries to create a story for people to pick sides. The media tries to make it as if we have to hate one another because of our race by depicting false images and violence on television. I believe humans are much more peaceful than the media makes them out to be. I’m writing this not to take the side of any group or race. I’m writing this to tell the media and the news to stop spreading hate and false information. Aggression is not biological, but environmental, and so is race. Why take a small part of a whole story to make the people look like monsters? In the field of Anthropology, we need to look at something from all different perspectives including biological and environmental. I’m writing this to says the amount of aggression in our society is not biological but it is from our environment. I’m writing you to tell you to spread the message saying we need each other, rather than we need to hate each other. By writing this, I’m hoping we can show the beauty of race rather than a faulty story you create and show. Thank you.


MaTeeSa Yessa

Works Cited

Brendan O’Shaughnessy. “Seeking Deeper Truths | University of Notre Dame.” Deeper Truths, 2015, www.nd.edu/stories//seeking-deeper-truths

Fuentes, Agustin. “The Roots of Human Aggression.” The Leakey Foundation, 15 Oct. 2012, leakeyfoundation.org/the-roots-of-human-aggression.   

Harrison, F. V. (2021, September 21). Race and Anthropology. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/race-and-anthropology.  

Author’s Bio

My name is MaTeeSa Yessa. I’m planning on transferring to SDSU. The major that I’m hoping to obtain is International Security and Conflict Resolution. For some reason the only school that offers that major is SDSU. My goal of being a mediator does not require any degree, but this is a similar topic. I just love learning so why not take this as an opportunity for me to learn more.

“The Instinct to Create: The Anthropological Wonders of Human Art & Creative Expression” by Nylah Abercrombie


Anthropology is a science concerned with the humanities. It delves deep into such questions as “why we are here” and “why we are who we are ''. It has a broad scope that includes four main subfields: cultural anthropology, archaeological anthropology, linguistic anthropology and biological anthropology (or physical anthropology). In this case I will be connecting the relevance of anthropology to the subject of art, and primarily focus on biological and cultural anthropology. Art is defined as an aesthetically pleasing form of expression that is seen as beautiful, or appealing to the eye (Dictionary.com, “Art” 2021); art is painting, the making or sculpting of objects,and drawing. Furthermore I will discuss neuropsychology. Neuropsychology is a branch within the psychology field which explains the nature of the brain as well as the whole nervous system (Wikipedia “Neuropsychology” 2021). Biology is the study of life itself. It observes organisms and their being, and even evolution (“Biology” 2021). And finally, evolution is a change in the genes of a population from generation to generation through forces such as mutation, natural selection, genetic drift (Dictionary.com 2021) and migration. I will focus on evolution that led up to early paleolithic times and Homo sapiens. I will be using all of these topics to explain how anthropology interconnects with art along with neuroscience (which is a subdivision of biology), as well as evolution. “Much of what we think is beautiful is determined by genetic factors that can be explained through natural selection and our evolution” (Schoenberg 2021, 7.4.3), and I will test this hypothesis further.

My methods are a review of peer-reviewed scholarly journals from several online sources, and I use them to support my claim that art is important to anthropology. I define key words and compare how art coincides and is important to human development culturally, psychologically, and evolutionarily. The general methods researchers use to study these topics are holistic “art has been revived with growing developments in evolutionary psychology, which seeks to understand the psychological and cultural life of human beings in terms of their genetic inheritance as an evolved species” (Dutton). 


Art is proven to have a positive affect on the brain and explains some human behavior. It is known that art triggers pleasant sensations of the brain. Denis Dutton in the book Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology states that “art as a focus of psychological interest is that it provides people with pleasure and emotions, often of an intense kind. It is a postulate of evolutionary psychology that pleasures, pains, and emotion-including experiences of attraction, revulsion, awe, fear, love, respect, loathing-have adaptive relevance” (Dutton 2003). Dutton claims that positive cognitive response, along with its broad and colorful range of emotions, can be accessed through the simple look or aesthetic of a piece of art. This applies to sexual attraction as well. 

Dutton suggests an application of evolutionary psychology to the arts. Psychology affects human behavior at an evolutionary standpoint, and points heavily to why humans act a certain way. “Evolutionary psychology is defined as ‘one of many biologically informed approaches to the study of human behavior’” (Dutton 2003). Art affects human behavior.

Psychology and the branch of neuropsychology discuss the practical regions of the brain. Research methods include neuroimaging, which shows activation on parts of the brain that allow for aesthetic preference. In “Art and brain: insights from neuropsychology, biology and evolution”, D.W. Zaidel (2010) explains how  neuroimaging captures how art triggers specific parts of the brain. “Increased activation in the right caudate nucleus as well as increased activation in the bilateral occipital gyri, left cingulate sulcus and bilateral fusiform gyri as a function of increased preference for the paintings” (Zaidel 2010).  The right caudate nucleus is responsible for the brain's recollection, ability to learn, overall emotion, romantic relation and reward. Bilateral occipital gyri in the brain is used for object recognition and the said objects function. The left cingulate sulcus distinguishes the emotions of pain and emotions. And, the bilateral fusiform gyri helps the human brain recognise faces. This could also explain human attraction to art both from our evolutionary roots to modern times. Participants involved in the research study show that art is overall an attractive element to humans: “physiologically, experiential pleasure is linked to increased levels of dopamine, GABA and various neuropeptides” (Zaidel). This shows that art stimulates the brain, and most particularly, why humans are attracted to art.


Evolution favors art for helping species develop geographically and creatively.  It is important that I define two subjects that are crucial to evolution. Both natural selection and sexual selection go hand in hand to determine why any of our ancestors procreated in the first place. Aspects like bipedalism, our immune system, haemoglobin, the ability to walk upright, or binocular vision, share an overall cause–natural selection–which produced early primates, and ourselves, the Homo sapiens (Dutton 2003). 

 It is said that “sexual selection acts on an organism's ability to obtain (often by any means necessary!) or successfully copulate with a mate” (UCMP 2021). Here is how art enhances or coincides with sexual selection: “according to sexual selection theory, we find great pleasure in pastimes such as art and music, in probing conversation with charming company, in great displays of athletic prowess, in a striking metaphor or a well told story” (Dutton 2003). These aspects of natural selection are art related.  Sexual selection includes elements of attraction that include a lot of what we call “the arts”.

Environment is a key factor. Natural selection is “when organisms are adaptive to their environment and change” (National Geographic Society 2021). And, environmental preference is the preference in which an organism chooses their environment. Environment is what attracted primates like Homo sapiens to want to settle down in area, along with sexual selection which made them feel comfortable enough to produce offspring in the area of their choosing. Early humans were attracted to an environment because of its aesthetics and its abundance. And, we can backtrack this attraction to the psychological affects of positive emotion that lead them to settle. This indicates that aesthetics of the environment was important to early primates. On the other hand we have animals showing the strength of sexual selection that contradicts their environment.

The most famous example of sexual selection is the peacock’s tail. This huge display, far from enhancing survival in the wild, makes peacocks more prone to predation...“Look at what a strong, healthy, fit peacock I am.” For discriminating peahens, the tail is a fitness indicator, and they will choose to mate with peacocks who display the grandest tails. [Dutton 2003]

This points to the power of attractiveness to the eye of both humans and animals, which influences sexual selection, natural selection, and environmental preference.


Culture includes the arts. Through a broader scope, anthropology and art are concerned with humanities and their culture. Even early humans respected and recognized how large of an impact art had. Most notably, “Homo sapiens possess a sensus communis, a shared human sense, discussion and agreement with regard to art and aesthetic experience was also possible” (Dutton 2003). Art and creativity have been tied into a plethora of cultures throughout time and have always been relevant to them. For instance,

the Japanese tea ceremony, widely regarded as an art, does not have any close analogue in the West; the Sepik River people of New Guinea are passionate carvers, and stand in sharp contrast with their fellow New Guineans from that Highlands, who direct their energies into body decoration and the production of fighting shields, but who carve very little.  [Dutton 2003]

Another example could be the Dinka tribe of East Africa who displayed their love of highly advanced poetry as well as connoisseurs' forms, colours, and patterns of organic notching on cattle they relied on for survival. Story-telling can be aesthetic and also functional: “story-telling does more than give explicit made-up instructions for possible future contingencies” (Dutton 2003). Artistic niches are recognized by most cultures and can often be explained through evolutionary psychology; the universal liking of art is connected to ancient psychological adaptations. 

The human tendency to create amusements, to elaborate and decorate everywhere in life, is therefore a result of mate choices, accounting for the evolution of dancing, body decoration, clothing, jewellery, hair styling, architecture, furniture, gardens, artefact design, images from cave paintings to calendars, creative uses of language, popular entertainments from religious pageants to TV soaps, and music of all kinds [Dutton 2003]

People incorporate art into everyday life which defines their way of life. Art functions to improve human development. This contributes to explaining why art is important to the human experience.


Art and creativity have a substantial influence on humans. Psychologically it influences ways of life like sexual selection and environmental preference. Evolutionarily it explains a lot of early primate behaviors and how humans came to be who we are, and helps explain why art is a staple in cultures across the world. We see the between evolution, culture, physcology, natural and sexual selection, and biology. Human creativity influences human evolution, and the other way around too.

Works Cited

Dictionary.com. 2021. “Art Definition & Meaning.”, Dictionary.com, 13 Oct. 2021 https://www.dictionary.com/browse/art. 

Dictionary.com. 2021. “Evolution Definition & Meaning.”, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/evolution. 

 Dutton, Denis. 2003. “Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology.” Denis Dutton on Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology, New York: Oxford University Press, http://www.denisdutton.com/aesthetics_&_evolutionary_psychology.htm. 

National Geographic Society. 2021. “Adaptation” https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/adaptation/ 13 Oct. 2021

Schoenberg, Arnie. 2021. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. https://arnieschoenberg.com/anth/bio/intro/index.html version: October 10th 2021 accessed: November 6 2021

ScienceDaily. 2021. “Evolutionary Psychology.” ScienceDaily, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/evolutionary_psychology.htm. 

UC Museum of Paleontology. 2021. “Sexual selection.” https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolution-101/mechanisms-the-processes-of-evolution/sexual-selection/ 13 Oct. 2021

Wikipedia. 2021. “Biology.” Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology.

Wikipedia. 2021. “Neuropsychology.” Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuropsychology.  

Zaidel, D.W.. 2010. “Art and brain: insights from neuropsychology, biology and evolution”. Journal of Anatomy, 216: 177-183. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7580.2009.01099.x

Author’s Bio

Hello, I am Nylah. Interestingly my name has a derivation to the word 'attainer' or 'achiever'. It seems fitting for how I am figuring out what best defines me as I experience life and continue my pursuit in education. I have been studying at city college now for 3 years now. I was born here in San Diego making me a native to the community. Currently I am happily involved in the arts and have a knack for creativity hence my interest in the artistic approach in Anthropology for this paper. Discovering myself as a student gives its credit in courses like Anthropology that makes me more aware of who I am as well as who it inspires me to be. Through my passion of art, creative writing and music I plan to get ahead. Being at the age of 21 makes me feel gratitude for the grace of time that life is granting me. And I am more than grateful to explore my interests in art as well as education in my college years.