homepage Francisco Gil-White homepage

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Francisco Gil-White
Curriculum Vitae      short bio


Francisco Gil-White's publications


Francisco's Investigative Journalism

I do investigative journalism that 1) places US foreign policy in broad historical perspective; 2) studies how the media works; and 3) seeks to provide the best interpretation possible of certain ethnic conflicts, given our best currently available data. This is an extension of my broad interest in ethnic conflict generally.

My work focuses primarily on -- but is not limited to -- the civil Wars in Yugoslavia, racism against black people, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. To read my historical and investigative work, please visit my new website:

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Definition of self:

I am equal parts ethnographer, evolutionary anthropologist, and psychologist. I conduct fieldwork in Western Mongolia with Torguud Mongol and Kazakh nomadic pastoralists and villagers. Very nice guy.

Research and Interests:

I am interested broadly in the evolution of the psychological mechanisms that make social learning possible and which are involved in cultural transmission processes.


1) Ethnicity: Why do we feel and think about ethnic groups the way we do? Are some aspects of our cognition of ethnicity part of the innate architecture of the human brain? Connection to cultural transmission:  Conformism in the acquisition of ideas leads members of an ethnic group to share many important interactional norms. This sets in motion emergent phenomena that can explain why human brains have evolved to erroneously essentialize ethnic groups as 'natural' categories. The imperative is better coordination.
Click here for my papers on Ethnicity

2) Prestige: Why do human have social asymmetries of freely-conferred deference? Why is this form of hierarchy absent in other social animals, which have dominance but never prestige? Connection to cultural transmission: The uniquely human capacity for direct social learning has resulted in selection pressures to choose models who are above-average in skills/knowledge and to buy access to them through deference in order to learn better. Prestige processes result from the operation of these biases.
Click here for my papers on Prestige

3) Memes: What are the units of social learning? What are the boundaries of the packets of information that we acquire from each other?  Connection to cultural transmission: In order to understand specific historical phenomena, we need to grasp how the brain parses information for storage and retrieval. This may be different for different domains, but this sort of knowledge is indispensable to seeing what is cultural transmission 'noise' and what isn't.
Click here for my papers on Memes

4) Sociology of Science: What patterns of knowledge transfer, and the institutionalized channels for its approval, distort the normal functioning of scientific disciplines as systems. Connection to cultural transmission: An academic discipline is a social system, with all sorts of rules and traditions, plus interactions with the world outside of academia, that may distort the ideal practice of science and legitimize as “consensus memes” spurious or even fraudulent results. This will be maintained through a combination of prestige and conformist biases.
Click here for my papers on Sociology of Science 

Click here for other, miscellaneous papers by me

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The lighter side

A philosophical dialogue on the essence of "essence"

Francisco Gil-White's publications

Papers on ethnicity

Gil-White, F. J. (1999) How thick is blood? The plot thickens...: If ethnic actors are primordialists, what remains of the circumstantialist/primordialist controversy? Ethnic and Racial Studies  22(5): 789-820.

Gil-White, F. J. (2001) Are ethnic groups biological 'species' to the human brain?: Essentialism in our cognition of some social categories. Current Anthropology 42(4): 515-554

Gil-White, F. J. (2001) Sorting is not categorization: A critique of the claim that Brazilians have fuzzy racial categories. Cognition and culture, 1(3):219-249

Gil-White, F. J. (2002) The cognition of ethnicity: Native category systems under the field-experimental microscope.  Field methods 14(2):170-198.

Gil-White, F. (2003) "Ultimatum game with an ethnicity manipulation: Results from Khovdiin Bulgan Sum, Mongolia," in Foundations of Human Sociality: Ethnography and Experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Edited by J. Henrich, R. Boyd, S. Bowles, H. Gintis, E. Fehr, and C. Camerer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gil-White, F. (2004) Ultimatum Game with ethnicity manipulation: Problems faced doing field economic experiments, and their solutions. Field Methods 16:157-183.

Gil-White, F. (2005) Is ethnocentrism adaptive?: An ethnographic analysis. Unpublished manuscript

Gil-White, F. (2006) The Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism Needs Better Categories: Clearing up the Confusions that Result from Blurring Analytic and Lay Concepts. Journal of bioeconomics 7:239-270. Journal of bioeconomics 7:239-270.

Gil-White, F. (2005) How conformism creates ethnicity creates conformism (and why this matters to lots of things) The Monist, vol. 88, no.2 (pp.189-237)

BOOK: Resurrecting Racism: The current attack on black people using phony science. Historical and Investigative Research. 2004.

Papers on prestige

Henrich, J., & Gil-White, F. (2001) The evolution of prestige: Freely conferred status as a mechanism for enhancing the benefits of cultural transmission. Evolution and human behavior  22:165-196.

Gil-White, F.  How prestige hierarchies led to arbitrary reference, the first step in the evolution of language. Unpublished manuscript

Papers on memes

Gil-White, F. (2001) L'evolution culturelle a-t-elle des règles? La rechérche  Hors-Série No. 5(Avril): 92-97.

Gil-White, F. ( 2005) Common misunderstandings of memes (and genes): The promise and the limits of the genetic analogy to cultural transmission processes. in S. Hurley and N. Chater, Perspectives on Imitation: From Mirror Neurons to Memes, MIT Press.

Gil-White, F. ( 2008) Let the meme be (a meme): Insisting too much on the genetic analogy will turn it into a straightjacket. In Culture, Nature, Memes. Edited by T. Botz-Bornstein, pp. 158-190. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.

Papers on sociology of science

Gil-White, F. (2013). Can the laws of economics explain the psychometric business? It grows and grows, but the products fail. Dirección Estratégica, 44.

Miscellaneous Papers

Gil-White, F., and P. J. Richerson (2003) "Large scale human cooperation and conflict," in Encyclopedia of cognitive science. Edited by L. Nadel. London: Nature Publishing/MacMillan.

Henrich, J., R. Boyd, S. Bowles, H. Gintis, E. Fehr, C. Camerer, R. McElreath, M. Gurven, K. Hill, A. Barr, J. Ensminger, D. Tracer, F. Marlow, J. Patton, M. Alvard, F. Gil-White and N. Henrich (2005) 'Economic Man' in Cross-cultural Perspective: Economic Experiments in 15 Small Scale Societes, Behavioral & Brain Sciences. 28:795-855

Gil-White, F. (2004). "The postmodern biologist (cum psychologist)." Review of Susan Oyama's "Evolution's Eye" Theory and psychology 14(1): 134-137