Dr Alex Alvergne

Dr Alvergne is Associate Professor in Biocultural Anthropology and a Fellow of Harris Manchester College. She has trained in human evolutionary ecology and her research focuses on understanding diversity in reproductive and health decision-making. She is affiliated with the medical anthropology programme and teaches courses in quantitative methods, the anthropology of diseases and evolution in health and medicine.


Email: alexandra.alvergne@anthro.ox.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1865 284946

Recent publications

  • Alvergne, Faurie & Jenkinson (Forthcoming) Evolutionary thinking in medicine: from research to policy and practice. Springer.
  • Alvergne (2015) Evolutionary Medicine. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edn.
  • Alvergne & Lummaa (2014) Ecological variation in wealth-fertility relationships in Mongolia: the central theoretical problem of sociobiology not a problem after all? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 281 (1796), 20141733
  • Alvergne, Lawson, Gurmu, Clarke, Mace (2013). Fertility, parental investment and the early adoption of modern contraception in Ethiopia. American Journal of Human Biology 25:107-15
  • Alvergne, Gurmu, Mace (2011). Social transmission and the adoption of modern contraception in rural Ethiopia. Plos One 6:e22515
  • Alvergne, Lummaa (2010) Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25 (3): 171-179

Research Interests

Evolution, demography and medicine. Alex's research aims to investigate the role of biological and cultural evolutionary processes for understanding behavioural diversity and change, focusing on reproductive and health decision-making. She aims to develop an integrative approach combining the data and methodologies of both biological and cultural anthropology. She has conducted field work in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Current projects

  • Contraceptive discontinuation

Most research on the adoption of contraception in sub-Saharan countries focuses on why modern contraception is not adopted more widely. However, previous research suggested that attention should be directed to individuals who do adopt modern contraception but then later decide to switch method or abandon it altogether. Indeed, a significant number of women experience side effects that are not compatible with their everyday life. Alex is investigating the magnitude of contraceptive discontinuation and the reasons underlying it using both analyses of the Demographic and Health Surveys and qualitative data. The research focuses on the Ethiopian context in collaboration with Prof E. Gurmu (Univ. Addis Ababa).

  • Vaccinating decision-making

While vaccination is usually considered to be one of the greatest successes of Western medicine, it is common to see the resurgence of diseases as a result of “vaccines scares”. So far, such scares or oscillation in vaccinating decision-making are understood as the result of a conflict between individual and group optimal interests. In collaboration with modelers from the University of Lille (Dr S. Billiard, M. Voinson), Alex is investigating the extent to which the assumption of rationality, here the idea that individuals act in their own interest, is mandatory for oscillations in vaccination coverage to occur. The project brings together cultural, psychological and epidemiological models for describing the dynamic of vaccinating decision-making.

  • The adoption of innovations in small-scale societies

Development initiatives do not always succeed in implementing new programs aiming at improving health services (e.g. such as sanitation (pictured)) or agriculture. In collaboration with a biologist from the University of Exeter (Dr S. Lamba), Alex investigates the relevance of evolutionary theoretical frameworks for understanding how such innovations may or may not spread in small-scale populations without adequate services. She uses a variety of data to better understand how people respond to the introduction of new cultural traits in rural India. While education and “changing culture” are usually considered to be the key for promoting the spread of health services in the public health literature and newspapers alike, practical concerns (e.g. the lack of access to piped water) are generally overlooked. This research is funded by The British Academy

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