Publication Date

Spring 2022


Leadership is a central subject of interest in anthropology and the evolutionary social sciences more generally because of its ubiquity in human societies as well as its role in the evolution of cooperation, social complexity, and social hierarchy. Explaining the variation in the form and functions of leadership across different societies and settings remains a major challenge for social scientists. Although it is often associated with social hierarchy, here I argue that leadership can and does evolve even in egalitarian settings where leaders cannot hope to fully make up the burdens and expenses associated with their service. I further show how norms promoting the devolution of power and authority to leaders can incentivize more effective leadership, albeit at the risk of increasing social inequality and corruption. I explore these dynamics with empirical data from two small-scale farming societies, as well as a game-theoretical model of public service.


Leadership, Game theory, Moseten, Tsimane, Bolivia

Document Type




Degree Name

Evolutionary Anthropology

Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Hunley, Keith

First Committee Member (Chair)

Siobhan Mattison

Second Committee Member

Hillard Kaplan

Third Committee Member

Martin Muller

Fourth Committee Member

Michael Gurven

Fifth Committee Member

Christopher von Rueden

Included in

Anthropology Commons