Department of Anthropology

Kristen Syme

Advisor: Edward H. Hagen
Position: PhD student

Biographical sketch

I received a BA in anthropology from the University of Delaware where I developed an interest in using evolutionary theory to investigate mental health phenomena that are diagnosed and treated as diseases in the West such as anxiety and depression. I conducted my MA research on suicidal behavior in 53 cultures and received my MA in 2014.


My research interests broadly concern the evolved interpersonal functions of psychological and behavioral phenomena. My MA thesis tested two evolutionary models of suicidal behavior against the ethnographic record, and my dissertation research is a continuation of this project. I will be testing an evolutionary model of suicidal behavior among ethnic Micronesians living on Guam where there are divergent demographic patterns of suicide and suicide attempts compared to the U.S. mainland. My primary research aims are to produce results that have practical public health applications and expand our understanding of the evolutionary and social functions of human psychological and behavioral traits.


Anth 390 History of Anthropological Theory

Research projects

Selected publications

Articles and Chapters

PDF Syme KL, Garfield ZH, Hagen EH 2015. Testing the bargaining vs. inclusive fitness models of suicidal behavior against the ethnographic record. Evolution and Human Behavior.