A casual conversation with a Wa person in Lancang, Yunnan, China

Hello! I’m Kevin (Ze) Hong, currently research associate in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, where I obtained my Ph.D. Starting June 2022, I will join the Department of Sociology at Zhejiang University as an assistant professor.

I am broadly interested in human behavior and culture, and currently have three lines of research:

  1. Magic, divination, and epistemic norms in small scale societies. Through both formal modelling and fieldwork, I investigate psychological and social factors that maintain false beliefs and ineffective technologies, especially from a cultural evolutionary perspective. My current field sites include the Yi and the Wa in southwest China, where I am particularly interested in divination using eggs and chicken thigh bones.
  2. Reporting biases in the transmission of instrumental practices. I take advantage of the digitized history record of Chinese dynasties and explore the extent to which negative outcomes are under-reported and the potential factors that explain such under-reporting. I am especially interested in rainmaking (求雨), dream divination (梦占), and fetal sex prognostication (辨胎).
  3. Theoretical modeling of the transmission of culture. Building upon a rich literature in cultural evolution, I use analytic modeling and agent-based simulation to explore the possibility of individuals combining different transmission biases (i.e. payoff, conformist, etc.) adaptively to achieve higher fitness benefit. I have a particular interest in the transmission of medical treatments in human societies.

I also think there’s something to neoclassical economics.