Saturday, January 15, 2011

Polys in Court - week 4 - Professor Todd Shackleford testimony

Summary of transcript of testimony on Dec 15,2010.

Professor Todd Shackleford was called to the stand by a lawyer on the legal team of the Amicus. Professor Shackleford is a professor of psychology and the chair
of the department of psychology at Oakland University in Rochester,Michigan. Formerly a professor at the Atlantic University in Florida where you founded and were chair of the PhD program in evolutionary psychology. He has published 226 articles and chapters of 173 were articles in scientific journals and all
of which were peer reviewed publications. He acted as editor on a number of publications for Oxford University Press in the fields of evolutionary psychology,and family psychology as well as a number of other books on evolutionary cognitive neuro-science published by MIT press. Professor Shackleford has been conducting research on conflict in monogamous relationships for the past 20 years focusing on men's violence, aggression, and their psychological and sexual abuse against their partners. The research features surveys of men and their partners and
determining the reliability of comparative statistical results.

Professor Shackeford's points:

1. while Prof Henrich has summarized various correlations and apparent consequences, negative correlations and apparent consequences can be seen in any kind of mating or marriage structure

2. causation and correlation are separate issues and cannot be assumed because of the implications of any third variable that may be present without your knowledge - for instance if you measured the consumption of ice cream and the number of drownings in a particular area you might find that as people eat more ice
cream there is an increase in the frequency of drownings but people aren't drowning because they ate too much ice cream. An increase in temperature encourages people to buy more ice cream and also to do more swimming.

3. in any mating structure where people of different interests are involved you will find conflict

4. his research of male sexual jealousy in the context of monogamous relationships has found that male sexual jealousy is a very good predictor of all sorts of undesirable consequences including violence against mens' partners, psychological abuse, sexual coercion, rape and men actually killing their partners.

5. something that has been documented now cross culturally is that the rates of child abuse neglect and killing for children who live with one stepparent relative to children who live with two genetic parents can be as high as 40 to 100 times

"I was providing in this affidavit a summary of my own work that indicates that in short that polygyny doesn't have the market cornered so to speak on some of these negative correlates and consequences." (Prof Todd Shackleford)

6. the challenge in undertaking cross-cultural research is that in order to compare relationship processes dynamics in one culture to another culture one has have to be very sensitive whether or not there might be differences in that other culture
that might impact the very processes you're attempting to investigate.

7. RE: violence among unrelated family members - is found in monogamous relationships where the husband and wife are typically unrelated

(MY COMMENT: - in a monogamist context - a man would be more likely to beat his wife than he would his sister or his mother as they are genetically related to him.)

In previous testimony heard by the court, Prof Heinrich contends that you'd expect to find this more so
with more unrelated adults in a polygynous home - Prof Shackleford said that he wasn't sure that it made sense to consider three unrelated women who happen to be co-wives as a random set of unrelated people given that we know there may be pressure on these co-wives in that cultural context to attempt to
get along better and treat each other's children reasonably. He wasn't sure that it was reasonable to simply apply full force data collected in one context to data collected in what may well be a qualitatively different context.

8. RE: conflict among co-wives - Prof Heinrich indicates that there is evidence of conflict among co-wives which will lead to violence among siblings who do not share the same mother. Prof  Shackleford said that while there may be conflict amongst co-wives there is also cooperation,friendship and love. Conflict is

not the defining or single feature of these relationships. Again comparing data to data that is qualitatively different.

9. children of polygynous relationships have negative outcomes -  Henrich reviewed article by Salman Elbedour - Prof Shakleford says that isn't what he took from the article - it cites some research that indicates children in polygynous relationships may have a variety of outcomes that are more negative than children

of monogamous relationships but it also cites studies that indicate children in polygynous relationships actually have a variety of outcomes that are more positive than children in monogamous relationships. Prof Shackleford felt the research was mixed on the issue.

10. RE: the role of sexual jealousy and age disparity - Prof Heinrich noted that where there is an age disparity between husbands and wives there tends to be greater sexual jealousy on the part of husbands toward their wives and that greater sexual jealousy in turn is related to a higher frequency or higher risk

of older husbands inflicting violence on their partners and this should be more so in polygynous relationships. Prof Shackleford questioned the assumption that what is found in monogamous relationships can be applied full force without regard to potential cultural or contextual differences.

Cross-examination by the BC AG began with a discussion of a book by Stephen Pinker (who is known to Prof Shakleford) and his evolutionary psychology based theory of monogamy versus polygamy.

- RE: if legal men especially wealthy, powerful men who could afford to it would choose polygamy as a general rule and give in to biological bent toward multiple partners - Prof Shakleford said that it isn't a given that men who have the opportunity will pursue it. He noted that some men are especially sensitive to

the costs involved in doing so in terms of maintaining social status which means maintaining a relationship with their regularlong term partner.

- RE: excess of young males would increase crime - Prof Shakleford agreed that males and most especially young males are disproportionately responsible for crime and anti-socialbehaviour in society. It would follow that the more unmarried young men there are the more crime and anti-social behaviour.

- RE: unrelated adults in the home - BC AG cited a study in Australia that showed that women were more likely to seat belt their genetic children in than children who were not their own and asked if it would not be reasonable to assume that if the presence of women who were not the genetic mothers would not

increase the risk of child abuse in the home. Also that the unrelated issue was not just in the parent/child and

parent/parent relationships but also in unrelated sibling relationships. Prof Shackleford said it was the risk of an unrelated male that was substantial in his studies and that just because there are more unrelated people it may or may not follow that the risks were greater.

RE: serial monogamy as experienced in our society is repressed polygynous urges or defacto polygyny and thus polygamy might spread quickly if the option were available - Prof Shackleford had issues with the possible variables in that scenario but amongst high status individuals "as opposed to impossible it's

plausible....terribly unlikely but plausible".

(My Comment: There is an interesting feel to this cross-examination. Initially, in consideration of Prof Shackleford's qualifications, the BC AG lawyer said that he was well aware of Prof Shackleford's work and it was an honour to have him involved in this reference case. During cross-examination, this lawyer
consistently referred to the witness as Dr. Shackleford which is also accurate, if not more so, as the professor is a PhD holder. The feel of the cross-examination - even in the text transcripts
- is of attempted camaraderie - as though the professor were a witness for the BC AG not the "opposing side". Reminds me very much of chit chatting with a sciences teacher in high school who was a brilliant man and qualified to teach university but preferred to work with the minds of teenagers and inspire them to higher educational options. He had various obsessions in his personal studies and one of my classmates (likely a lawyer now) was very adept at side tracking the teacher off on one of these tangents. The discussion was quite facinating but nothing to do with what we were doing and most definitely left no time for homework assignment. The attempt in this cross-examination seemed to be to get the esteemed professor to pontificate (outside his area of expertise) on the possibilities that his findings regarding monogamy would be more prevalent in polygamy thus making it something we should guard our society from experiencing in the onslaught of rampant polygamy that would follow decriminalization of this relationship form.)

Cross-examination from the AG Canada centered around the sexual jealousy of men causing them to create various controlling behaviours such as treating women as sexual and reproductive commodities and how this might become a community norm leading to increased levels of violence within that community. Age disparity between spouses being greater than 13 years is an indicator of possible violence between spouses.  The younger the wife the more likely she'll kill her husband.  Prof Shackleford agreed to these as possibilities and probable outcomes. 


  1. This would be a good classroom lecture and provides credible insights into human family diversities and religion/spirituality's.

    I think, genetically, Utah and Great Basin/the Intermountain West are too broke not to fix and co operation and confidentiality are necessary to working with them. If they get spooked they can't function well medically. But in areas where polygamous and monogamist genomes are closely related, it is not as true as elsewhere that all childbearing presents a unique problem. Now that the age is up in the US
    FLDS, if social work is quality, people will more often marry in college out of a much larger gene pool.

    Downwind radiation exposure is not a factor than can be ignored or blamed on religion. In all forested states Dioxin is a serious problem. People need to be accepted so they don't feel that doctors and schools just exist to threaten and control their families. Polyamory is different. There is a danger of going down with the poly-ship. 2-8-11