A bibliography of papers and books that address (a) the cultural evolution of health concepts and behaviour or (b) folk epistemology, the processes by which people determine if a treatment is effective or not.



  • Handel, B., & Schwartzstein, J. (2018). Frictions or Mental Gaps: What's Behind the Information We (Don't) Use and When Do We Care? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 32(1), 155-78.
  • Mercier, H. (2017). How gullible are we? A review of the evidence from psychology and social science. Review of General Psychology, 21(2), 103.


  • Carter, S. (2017). Overdiagnosis, ethics, and trolley problems: why factors other than outcomes matter. BMJ 358:j3872
  • Pathirana, T., Clark, J. & Moynihan, R. (2017) Mapping the drivers of overdiagnosis to potential solutions . BMJ 358:j3879
  • Steinkopf, L. (2017). The Social Situation of Sickness: an Evolutionary Perspective on Therapeutic Encounters. Evolutionary Psychological Science. 3(3): 270–286.
  • De Barra M. (2017). Reporting bias inflates the reputation of medical treatments: A comparison of outcomes in clinical trials and online product reviews. Social Science & Medicine 177:248-255.
  • Singh M. (2017). The cultural evolution of shamanism. Brain and Behavioural Medicine.


  • Steinkopf, L. (2016). An Evolutionary Perspective on Pain Communication. Evolutionary Psychology, 14(2), 1474704916653964.
  • Salali, G. D., Chaudhary, N., Thompson, J., Grace, O. M., van der Burgt, X. M., Dyble, M. Page, A., Smith D., Lewis, J., Mace, R., Vinicius, L., Migliano, A. B. (2016). Knowledge-Sharing Networks in Hunter-Gatherers and the Evolution of Cumulative Culture. Current Biology, 26(18), 2516-2521.
  • Alrashedy, N. A., & Molina, J. (2016). The ethnobotany of psychoactive plant use: a phylogenetic perspective. PeerJ, 4, e2546.
  • De Barra M. & Cownden D. (2016) Medicine as Message: Caregiving, Illness Deception, and the Cultural Evolution of Harmful Treatments SocArXiv https://osf.io/7d8zk/
  • Tiokhin, L. (2016). Do Symptoms of Illness Serve Signaling Functions?(Hint: Yes). The Quarterly Review of Biology, 91(2), 177-195.


  • Miton, H., Claidière, N., & Mercier, H. (2015). Universal cognitive mechanisms explain the cultural success of bloodletting. Evolution and Human Behavior, 36(4), 303-312.
  • Miton, H., & Mercier, H. (2015). Cognitive obstacles to pro-vaccination beliefs. Trends in cognitive sciences, 19(11), 633-636.
  • Boudry, M., Blancke, S., & Pigliucci, M. (2015). What makes weird beliefs thrive? The epidemiology of pseudoscience. Philosophical Psychology, 28(8), 1177-1198.
  • Kendal, J. R., & Walters, C. E. (2015). Cultural Evolution, Gene–Culture Coevolution, and Human Health. Tipping Points: Modelling Social Problems and Health, 146-167.
  • van Andel, T., Ruysschaert, S., Boven, K., & Daly, L. (2015). The use of Amerindian charm plants in the Guianas. Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine, 11(1), 1.
  • Steinkopf, L. (2015). The Signaling Theory of Symptoms An Evolutionary Explanation of the Placebo Effect. Evolutionary Psychology, 13(3), 1474704915600559.


  • De Barra, M., Eriksson, K., & Strimling, P. (2014). How feedback biases give ineffective medical treatments a good reputation. Journal of medical Internet research, 16(8).
  • Lilienfeld, S. O., Ritschel, L. A., Lynn, S. J., Cautin, R. L., & Latzman, R. D. (2014). Why Ineffective Psychotherapies Appear to Work A Taxonomy of Causes of Spurious Therapeutic Effectiveness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(4), 355-387.


  • Etkin, N. L. (2003). The co-evolution of people, plants, and parasites: biological and cultural adaptations to malaria. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(02), 311-317.


  • Boudry, M., & Braeckman, J. (2012). How convenient! The epistemic rationale of self-validating belief systems. Philosophical Psychology, 25(3), 341-364.
  • Vogt, F., Mason, D., & Marteau, T. M. (2012). Crediting Treatments for Good Outcomes That Would Have Happened Anyway: The Impact of Baseline Risk on Treatment Perceptions. Medical Decision Making, 32(2), 301-310.


  • Yeaman, S., Schick, A., & Lehmann L. Social network architecture and the maintenance of deleterious cultural traits. J R Soc Interface, 9(70): 848–858.
  • Boudry, M., & Braeckman, J. (2011). Immunizing strategies and epistemic defense mechanisms. Philosophia, 39(1), 145-161.


  • Henrich, J., & Henrich, N. (2010). The evolution of cultural adaptations: Fijian food taboos protect against dangerous marine toxins. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 277(1701), 3715-3724.


  • Hartman, S. E. (2009). Why do ineffective treatments seem helpful? A brief review. Chiropractic & osteopathy, 17(1), 1.
  • Tanaka, M. M., Kendal, J. R., & Laland, K. N. (2009). From traditional medicine to witchcraft: why medical treatments are not always efficacious. PLoS One, 4(4), e5192.
  • Leonard, K. L., Adelman, S. W., & Essam, T. (2009). Idle chatter or learning? Evidence of social learning about clinicians and the health system from rural Tanzania. Social science & medicine, 69(2), 183-190.


  • Sterelny, K. (2007). Snafus: an evolutionary perspective. Biological Theory, 2(3), 317-328.


  • Tanaka, M. M., Kumm, J., & Feldman, M. W. (2002). Coevolution of pathogens and cultural practices: a new look at behavioral heterogeneity in epidemics. Theoretical population biology, 62(2), 111-119.


  • Leonard, K. L. (2001). African traditional healers: The economics of healing. IK Notes



  • Prasad, V. K., & Cifu, A. S. (2015). Ending medical reversal: improving outcomes, saving lives. JHU Press.


  • Welch, H.G., Schwartz, L. & Woloshin, S. (2012). Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health. Beacon Press.
  • McCartney, M., (2012). The Patient Paradox: Why Sexed Up Medicine is Bad for Your Health. Pinter & Martin Ltd.


  • Wootton, D. (2006). Bad medicine: doctors doing harm since Hippocrates. OUP Oxford.


  • Fabrega, H. (1999). Evolution of Sickness and Healing. University of California Press