Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Michael H. Logan

Committee Members

Fred Smith, Jan Simek


The notion of “cultural performance” is proposed as a theoretical paradigm for the cross-cultural understanding of the relationship between cultural and biological goals. The concepts of conformity and manipulation are discussed, and literature is cited in support of the notion that performing a cultural script, regardless of its nature (thus accounting for the persistence of “neutral” and even maladaptive traits), is adaptive in a Darwinian sense. Lastly, a study is presented in which an attempt has been made to support this hypothesis that cultural performance is adaptive. Former students of the University of Tennessee (class of 1965) were questioned regarding their cultural performance, which was operationalized in terms of participation in group activities and a “sense of belonging”, or conforming, to the group. This information was compared to the students’ biological performance in terms of somatic and reproductive fitness. Results suggest that there is a relationship between the two variables, as those who “performed” better averaged greater sexual access while at the university and higher realized fertility in subsequent life history.

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