Between universal and local: Towards an evolutionary anthropology of emotions

  • Marco Capocasa
  • Virginia McCuen
  • Beatrice Venier
  • Fabrizio Rufo
Keywords: emotions, evolution, cultural transmission, inner state, embodiment


Since the days of Darwin, emotion has widely been regarded as a fundamental contribution to natural selection for its benefit toward survival. The evolutionary approach drove Paul Ekman’s ground-breaking yet controversial research on the Fore tribe of New Guinea. Eckman concluded that there are six emotions that are expressed by all human beings. His universalist view contrasts with those of many anthropologists, such as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, who regard emotion as foremost socially-learned and ascribable almost exclusively to the realm of culture. A marriage between universalism and culturalism has been proposed, giving rise to the new field of study known as neuroanthropology, suggesting the importance of the emotions in the embodiment of socio-cultural factors.