Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2017

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Jeff Keuss

First Advisor/Committee Member

Cara Wall-Scheffler

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Kevin Neuhouser


locomotion, group walking, infant carrying, Uganda


A major portion of humans’ activity-based energy expenditure is taken up by locomotion, particularly walking. Humans can offset the energetic expenditure of walking in numerous ways, both evolutionary (such as changes in body shape) and culturally. Behaviorally, people can choose to walk in a variety of ways, including alone or with a group, carrying loads, and walking quickly or more slowly. All of these behaviors have energetic outcomes and as such can be important windows into how populations and groups adjust to different constraints. While sex differences in speed of paired walkers have been established by others, the dynamics of how walkers adjust their speed in more varied groups and in groups containing children remains unexplored. Furthermore, little ecological data exists to illustrate the relationships between walking speed and child-carrying. Because the determinants of group dynamics and parental investment are partially cultural, the present study examines walking behavior between populations in the Northwestern United States and Central Uganda. We recorded the speed, load carriage, and group composition of pedestrians in urban areas of each location. Our data suggest that children are treated fundamentally differently than other loads or walking partners, and that speed adjustments are child-dependent. Sexual division of labor was also observed, with women being much more likely than men to carry children in both cultures. However, clear distinctions between the groups make large generalizations about walking behavior difficult, and highlight the importance of culturally specific contexts.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program


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