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Psychological Anthropology and Human Adaptation (PAHA) Laboratory

The PAHA Lab is a research lab in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, directed by Professor Seamus Decker.

PAHA Lab received IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval for our first study and we are beginning data collection in November 2009.

Do you want to participate?  Check out our Screening & Recruitment section to learn more and find out if you are eligible.

With improvements in the standard of living, health care, sanitation and nutrition a paradoxical revolution has occurred in the human experience.  Today, in many countries the largest fractions of illness and premature death occur as a result of excess prosperity and ‘luxury.’

In sum, tobacco use, substance abuse, overeating and physical inactivity all contribute to the diseases that are the most pervasive killers and which promise to be the leading causes of illness and death in the future: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases, including mental illness like depression.  Not only has prosperity created the opportunity for excessive indulgence, the pursuit of prosperity in contexts of increasing inequity seems to contribute to anxiety, depression, competition and social incongruity.

Conceived broadly, the long-term mission of the PAHA Lab is to contribute to the amelioration of these social problems by conducting interdisciplinary research on the biological, social, and psychological processes involved in human reward-pursuit behaviors and closely related response to threatening or aversive experiences─so-called “stress” response.

The laboratory is founded on principles of holistic four-fields anthropology and is intended as a base for the integration of complementary disciplinary perspectives for creating novel and powerful understandings of human health and behavior.  The laboratory incorporates experimental psychophysiological methods, human biological methods and field-based ethnographic and socioendocrinological approaches.


Seamus Decker, Professor of Anthropology  
Contact Us:
Phone #: (413) 545-3592