Anthropology Professor Publishes Book on Cultural Models

Victor deMunck

Victor de Munck

By Despina Williams Parker

Cultural Models: Genesis, Methods, and Experiences, a book by Anthropology Professor Victor de Munck and Giovanni Bennardo (Northern Illinois University), has just been published by Oxford University Press.

Professor de Munck and Bennardo are cognitive anthropologists engaged in developing the concept of cultural models, which they view as the basic units of culture. In their book, the authors propose a new cognitive theory of culture that shows how culture can be located, or embodied, in the individual and yet be a collective phenomenon.

The book defines cultural models as “mental representations” that function “both to make sense of and interpret sensory input and also to produce and shape purposive and communicative behaviors. Cultural models are used to read signaled intentions, attitudes, emotions, and social context, including the social status of those one is encountering.”

Cultural Models BookAccording to de Munck, cultural models help us conduct day-to-day tasks, such as smiling and shaking hands with new acquaintances, while on “automatic pilot,” thus expending very little cognitive energy.

The book outlines several cultural models, including the courtship model of marriage, which includes cultural models of love, trust, passion and intimacy. Because models vary among cultures, the book takes an in-depth look at cultural models from North America, Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa and also explores cultural models among Native-Americans and Latino-Americans.

Noting that he and his co-author are ambitious scholars, de Munck said both saw the book as a “potential gatekeeper” text to the rapidly increasing field of cultural models research.  “The book allowed us to solidify and develop our own understandings of what cultural models are and how to conduct research about cultural models,” said de Munck. “After working on this book, I feel (as does Giovanni) that we have some mastery over the cultural models literature.”

The authors devised guidelines to conducting good cultural models research, which they hope will gain influence in areas of research that extend beyond their field of anthropology.

The writing of Cultural Models: Genesis, Methods, and Experiences has already facilitated a National Science Foundation research grant on “Cultural Models of Climate Change.” The grant funds research in 16 different cultural areas of the world. “It was the highest ranked grant submitted in 2013 and we have assurance that after this year it will be funded for another two or possibly three years,” noted de Munck.

In writing the book, de Munck and Bennardo had a spirited exchange of ideas.  “Giovanni and I are friends, and while the experience of working together did lead to some arguments, we ended up feeling like brothers to each other,” said deMunck. “It was a very wonderful and enriching experience for both of us.”

At New Paltz, de Munck teaches Research Methods for Anthropology students, Cultural Anthropology, Social Organization and three favorite courses: Love, Sex and Marriage; Culture, Self and Meaning, and Psychedelic Anthropology.

He has authored, edited, or co-authored/edited 12 books and special editions of journals, and authored or co-authored over 60 articles or book chapters.   Recent works on cultural models include the papers, “Culture and Cognition on Cultural Models of Romantic Love” and “Theory of Self, Identity and Cultural Models.”

Psychology Professor’s Book Translated into Chinese

Mating Intelligence

By Despina Williams Parker

Mating Intelligence Unleashed, co-written by Psychology Department Chair Glenn Geher and Scott Barry Kaufman (New York University), will be published in Chinese (simplified characters) in Mainland China by The Commercial Press of Beijing in August 2015. Of the four books Geher has penned, this is the first to be translated into another language.

“I have to say that I’ve been happily surprised with the attention this book has gotten,” said Geher. “When Abby Gross, the editor who oversees psychology books for Oxford University Press, contacted my co-author and me indicating that this will be translated into Chinese, I just thought, ‘This is great.’”

First published by the Oxford University Press in 2013, Mating Intelligence Unleashed uses research on evolutionary psychology, intelligence, creativity, personality, social psychology, neuroscience, and more to answer age-old questions about mating and dating.  Among these are: How do people really choose mates? What traits are attractive? Do nice guys really finish last?

Geher coined the phrase, “mating intelligence” in 2006 and his work has been featured in Psychology Today, the Washington Post, Huffington Post and elsewhere.

“The whole point of publishing ideas, in book format or otherwise, is to get others to think – and the idea of having people on the other side of the world read this book and think about the ideas that we discuss, regarding human mating, relationships, and evolution, is just very exciting,” said Geher. “I hope the folks in China like it.”

Geher is the director of Evolutionary Studies at SUNY New Paltz, founder of the North Eastern Evolutionary Psychology Society (NEEPS) and co-founder of the International Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Consortium, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Darwin Week Celebrates Scientist’s Contributions to Evolutionary Theory


SUNY New Paltz’s renowned celebrations of Charles Darwin’s 205th birthday reflect the extraordinary breadth that Darwin’s ideas bring to our modern understanding of the world.

Darwin Week 2014:  “From Human Brains to Desert Plants and Beyond!” will kick off with a talk by Professor Ralph Holloway of Columbia University entitled, “Paleoneurology and Human Brain Evolution.” This event, which is part of New Paltz’s 7th annual Evolutionary Studies Seminar Series, will be held Monday, Feb. 10 from 5:30-6:45 p.m. in Lecture Center 100.

The second Darwin Week event features a lecture by Professor William Varga of the Utah Botanical Center entitled, “Plants and People in the Intermountain High Desert: From Hunter-Gatherer to Sustainable Landscapes,” held Tuesday, Feb. 10 from 7-8 pm. in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium.

Receptions will follow both events.  Attendees will enjoy free food and birthday cake.

This award-winning series is the cornerstone of New Paltz’s award-winning program in evolutionary studies.

Ph.D. Candidate Gives Talk on Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

How are digital technologies changing the ways scholars in the humanities conduct and publish research? What does digital scholarship in the humanities look like, and what should it do?

Lindsay Thomas (Ph.D. Candidate, UC-Santa Barbara) will explore these issues in a presentation entitled, “What the (Digital) Humanities Do: Interdisciplinary Forms of Digital Scholarship,” on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. in JFT 1010.

Thomas will examine both digital projects and projects about digital technologies, covering a range of topics including database design, data visualization and national security. At stake is the value and authority of humanistic knowledge in today’s digital world.

History Majors Career Panel

The History Department and History Club will host a History Majors Career Panel on Wednesday, February 12 at 7 p.m. in the Honors Center (College Music Hall).

Students can expect an informative, two-hour presentation by a diverse group of history graduates.  Law professionals, museum professionals, a high school teacher, historians and the Sojourner Truth librarian will speak about their backgrounds and how they entered their chosen professions. They will also give advice to history majors just beginning their career journeys.

“A degree in history gives students the skills to succeed in a variety of different careers, from law and government to teaching and library science,” said History Department Associate Professor and Chair Andy Evans.   “History majors learn how to write, reason, and research, all in the service of making convincing arguments based on evidence.  Our career panel is designed to give students concrete tips from former New Paltz history majors on how to get internships, interviews, and jobs.”

The Career Resource Center will be available to talk about the importance of experience in a field as well as give advice on graduate schools, resumes, and internships.

For more information, contact History Club Co-President Ashley Trainor at