From ecology to hierarchy: Investigating the roots of sociopolitical organization in past human societies

Cédric Perret (University of Lausanne)

March 4, 2024, 14:00–15:15


Room Auditorium 3 JJ Laffont

SBS recruitment seminar


The sociopolitical organization of human societies has widely varied during human evolutionary history, ranging from relatively egalitarian small-scale societies to strongly hierarchical states. My research aims to understand the causes behind the rise or decline of political and economic inequality in human societies, using a combination of mathematical and computational models. To investigate these questions, I integrate models of social and economic processes—how individuals make decisions, coordinate, and exchange—into models of long-term behavioral change, such as evolutionary models.During this talk, I will illustrate my approach by presenting two of my previous works. In the first study, I investigated how the distribution of individuals’ capacity to influence others affects collective decision-making. I then used an evolutionary model to explore which scenarios can lead to the evolution of political leaders. In the second study, I explored under which conditions subordinates can or cannot counteract leaders who attempt to impose high inequality, for instance, by overthrowing them or by migrating away.