Sheina Lew-Levy, PhD

Using methods from anthropology and psychology, I conduct research in hunter-gatherer societies to understand the cultural diversity in, and evolution of, social learning in childhood.

On September 1 2022, I will be an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Durham University (U.K.).

Social Learning

I use quantitative and qualitative methods to study how and from whom children learn through meaningful participation in every day activities.

Forager Child Studies

With the interdisciplinary research team I co-founded and co-direct, I conduct cross-cultural reviews and secondary data analysis on the pasts, presents, and futures of forager children's learning. More info here.

Field Site

Since 2016, I work with egalitarian BaYaka foragers and their farmer neighbours in the Congo Basin. My primary research uses behavioural observations to understand social learning. I have also collected biological samples, social network data, and conducted experiments for collaborative cross-cultural projects.


google scholar

*Denotes co-first authorship

In Press

Pretelli, I., Ringen, E.J., Lew-Levy, S. Foraging complexity and the evolution of childhood. Science Advances. preprint

Bombjaková, D.*, Lew-Levy, S.*, Duda, R., Loubelo, G., Lewis, J. BaYaka education: From the forest to the ORA (Observer, Réflechir, Agir) classroom. Hunter-Gatherer Research.


Lew-Levy, S., Reckin, R., Kissler, S.M., Pretelli, I., Boyette, A.H., Crittenden, A.N., Hagen, R., Haas, R., Kramer, K.L., Koster, J., O’Brien, M., Sonoda, K., Surovell, T.A., Tucker, B., Lavi, N., Ellis-Davies, K., Davis, H.E. Socioecology shapes child and adolescent time allocation in twelve hunter-gatherer and mixed-subsistence forager societies. Scientific Reports, 12: 0854. link

Lew-Levy, S., Bombjaková, D., Milks, A., Kiabiya Ntamboudila, F., Kline, M.A., Broesch, T. Costly teaching contributes to the acquisition of spear hunting skill among BaYaka forager adolescents. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 289: 20220164. link

Lew-Levy, S., Andersen, M.M., Lavi, N., Riede, F. Hunter-gatherer children’s object play and tool use: An ethnohistorical analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. link

Broesch, T., Lew-Levy, S., Kärtner, J., Kanngiesser, P., Kline, M.A. A roadmap to doing culturally grounded developmental science. Review of Philosophy and Psychology. link

Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S., Jang, H., Kandza, V. Social ties in the Congo Basin: Insights into tropical forest adaptation from BaYaka and their neighbors. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377: 20200490. link

Sarma, M.S., Gildner, T., Howells, M., Lew-Levy, S., Trumble, B., Fuentes, A. There and back again: The biosocial dynamics of returning from the field. American Journal of Human Biology, 34: e23673. link

Glowacki, L., Lew-Levy, S. How small-scale societies achieve large-scale cooperation. Current Opinions in Psychology, 44:44-48. link


Milks, A., Lew-Levy, S., Lavi, N., Friesem, D.E., Reckin, R. Hunter-gatherer children in the past: An archaeological review. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 64: 101369. link

Lew-Levy, S., Milks, A., Kiabiya Ntamboudila, F., Broesch, T., Kline, M.A. BaYaka adolescent boys nominate accessible adult men as preferred spear hunting models. Current Anthropology, 62(5). link

Lew-Levy, S.*, Pope, S.M.*, Haun, D., Kline, M.A., Broesch, T. Out of the empirical box: A mixed-methods study of tool innovation among Congolese BaYaka forager and Bondongo fisher-farmer children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 211: 105223. link

Killius, E., Samson, D.R., Lew-Levy, S., Sarma, M.S., Patel, U., Ouamba, Y.R., Miegakanda, V., Gettler, L.T., Boyette, A.H. BaYaka sleep biology: A comparison of village and forest gender-based differences in sleep-wake patterns in mobile foragers. Scientific Reports, 11: 13658. link

Lew-Levy, S., Ringen, E.J., Crittenden, A.N., Mabulla, I.A., Broesch, T., Kline M. The life history of learning subsistence skills among Hadza and BaYaka foragers from Tanzania and the Republic of Congo. Human Nature. link

Gettler, L.T., Lew-Levy, S., Sarma, M.S., Miegakanda, V., Doxsey, M., Meyer, J.S., Boyette, A.H. Children’s cortisol among BaYaka foragers: Associations with fathers’ roles and parental physiology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200031. link

*Ellis-Davies, K., *Lew-Levy, S., Fleming, E., Boyette, A.H., Baguley, T. Demonstrating the utility of egocentric relational event modelling with focal follow data from Congolese BaYaka children and adolescents engaging in work and play. Field Methods, 33(3). link

Davis, J.T.M., Robertson, E., Lew-Levy, S., Neldner, K., Kapitany, R., Nielsen, M., Hines, M. Cultural components of sex differences in color preference. Child Development. link

Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S. Socialization, autonomy and cooperation: Insights from task assignment among the egalitarian BaYaka. Ethos. link


Reckin, R., Lew-Levy, S., Lavi, N., Ellis-Davies, K. Mobility, autonomy, and learning: Could the transition from egalitarian to non-egalitarian social structures start with children? Social inequality before farming? Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of social organisation in prehistoric and ethnographic hunter-gatherer-fisher societies, 33-50. Ed: L. Moreau. Cambridge: MacDonald Institute Monograph Series (peer reviewed). link

Gettler, L.T., Lew-Levy, S., Sarma, M.S., Miegakanda, V., Boyette, A.H. When sharing is caring: Testosterone, fathering, and generosity among BaYaka foragers of the Congo Basin. Scientific Reports, 10: 15422. link

Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S., Sarma, M.S., Miegakanda, V., Gettler, L.T. Fatherhood, egalitarianism, and child health in two small-scale societies in the Republic of the Congo. American Journal of Human Biology, 32: e23342. link

Lew-Levy, S., Boyette, A.H., Crittenden, A.N., Hewlett, B.S., Lamb, M.E. Gender-typed and gender-segregated play among Tanzanian Hadza and Congolese BaYaka hunter-gatherer children and adolescents. Child Development, 91(4): 1284-1301. link

Lew-Levy, S., Milks, A., Lavi, N., Pope, S.M., Friesem, D.E. Where innovations flourish: An ethnographic and archaeological overview of hunter-gatherer learning contexts. Evolutionary Human Sciences. 2(e31): 1-23. link

Sarma, M.S., Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S., Miegakanda, V., Kilius, E., Samson D.R., Gettler, L.T. Sex differences in daily activity intensity and energy expenditure and their relationship to cortisol among BaYaka foragers from the Congo Basin. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 172 (3): 423-437. link

Gettler, L.T., Lin, D.T.S., Miegakanda, V., Lew-Levy, S., Eick, G., Snodgrass, J., MacIsaac, J.L., Ramadori, K.E., Kobor, M.S., Boyette, A.H. Epigenetic aging in children from a small-scale farming society in the Congo Basin: Associations with child growth and family conflict. Developmental Psychobiology, 62: 138-153. link

Pope, S.M., Fagot, J., Meguerditchian, A., Watzek, J., Lew-Levy, S. Autrey, M.M., Hopkins, W.D. Optional-switch cognitive flexibility in primates: Chimpanzees’ (Pan troglodytes) intermediate susceptibility to cognitive set. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 134(1): 98-109. link

House, B.R., Kanngiesser, P., Barrett, H.C., Broesch, T., Cebioglu, S., Crittenden, A.N., Erut, A., Lew-Levy, S., Sebastian-Enesco, C., Smith, A., Yilmaz, S., Silk, J.B. Universal norm psychology leads to societal diversity in prosocial behavior and development. Nature Human Behaviour, 4: 36-44. link

Lew-Levy, S., Kissler, S.M., Boyette, A.H., Crittenden, A.N., Mabulla, I.A., Hewlett, B.S. Who teaches children to forage? Exploring the primacy of child-to-child teaching among Hadza and BaYaka hunter-gatherers of Tanzania and Congo. Evolution and Human Behavior, 40(1): 12-22 . link


Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S. Identifying variation in cultural models of resource sharing between foragers and farmers: A multi-method, cognitive approach. Towards a Broader View of Hunter Gatherer Sharing: 171-184. Eds.: N. Lavi and D.E. Friesem. Cambridge: MacDonald Institute Monograph Series (peer reviewed). link

Gettler, L.T., Sarma, M.S., Lew-Levy, S., Bond, A., Trumble, B.C., Boyette, A.H. Mothers’ and fathers’ joint profiles for testosterone and oxytocin in a small-scale fishing-farming community: Variation based on marital conflict and paternal contributions. Brain and Behavior. link

Lew-Levy, S., Crittenden, A.N., Boyette, A.H., Mabulla, I.A., Hewlett, B.S., Lamb, M.E. Inter- and intra-cultural variation in learning-through-participation among Hadza and BaYaka forager children and adolescents from Tanzania and Congo. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 29(4): 309-318. link

Froehle, A.W., Wells, G.K., Pollom, T.R., Mabulla, A.Z.P., Lew-Levy, S., Crittenden, A.N. Physical activity and time budgets of Hadza forager children: Implications for self-provisioning and the ontogeny of the sexual division of labor. American Journal of Human Biology 31(1): e23209. link

Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S., Sarma, M.S., Gettler, L.T. Testosterone, fathers as providers and caregivers, and child health: Evidence from fisher-farmers in the Republic of Congo. Hormones and Behavior 107: 35-45. link


Boyette, A.H., Lew-Levy, S., Gettler, L.T. Dimensions of fatherhood in a Congo Basin village: A multi-method analysis of intra-cultural variation in men’s parenting and its relevance for child heath. Current Anthropology 59(6): 839-847. link

Lew-Levy, S., Boyette, A.H. Evidence for the adaptive learning function of work and work-themed play among Aka forager and Ngandu farmer children from the Congo Basin. Human Nature 29(2): 157-185. link

Lew-Levy, S., Lavi, N., Reckin, R., Cristobal-Azkarate, J., Ellis-Davies, K. How do hunter-gatherer children learn social and gender norms? A meta-ethnographic review. Cross-Cultural Research 52(2): 213-255. link


Lew-Levy, S., Reckin, R., Lavi, N., Cristobal-Azkarate, J., Ellis-Davies, K. How do hunter-gatherer children learn subsistence skills? A meta-ethnographic review. Human Nature 28(4): 367-394. link


Timler, K., Lew-Levy, S. Growing under the Acacia tree: An open letter on how to raise an anthropologist. Teaching Anthropology 6: 52-56. link


Lew-Levy, S. Paths of least resistance: Food, abundance, and politics of indistinction in a foraging household. Fields-Terrains 3: 30-37. link


My research has been funded by

  • The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

  • The Leakey Foundation

  • The Wenner-Gren Foundation

  • The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

  • The Royal Anthropological Institute

  • The Cambridge International Trust

  • The Gates-Cambridge Trust

  • PLAYTrack Seeds

All photos courtesy of Sarah M. Pope