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Human life history strategies: calibrated to external or internal cues?
Human life history (LH) strategies are theoretically regulated by developmental exposure to environmental cues that ancestrally predicted LH-relevant world states (e.g., risk of morbidity–mortality). Recent modeling work has raised the question of whether the association of childhood family factors with adult LH variation arises via (i) direct sampling of external environmental cues during development and/or (ii) calibration of LH strategies to internal somatic condition (i.e., health), which itself reflects exposure to variably favorable environments. The present research tested between these possibilities through three online surveys involving a total of over 26,000 participants. Participants completed questionnaires assessing components of self-reported environmental harshness (i.e., socioeconomic status, family neglect, and neighborhood crime), health status, and various LH-related psychological and behavioral phenotypes (e.g., mating strategies, paranoia, and anxiety), modeled as a unidimensional latent variable. Structural equation models suggested that exposure to harsh ecologies had direct effects on latent LH strategy as well as indirect effects on latent LH strategy mediated via health status. These findings suggest that human LH strategies may be calibrated to both external and internal cues and that such calibrational effects manifest in a wide range of psychological and behavioral phenotypes.