Michael E. W. Varnum, PhD

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. I am director of the Culture and Ecology Lab and one of the principle investigators of the Evolutionary Social Psychology Co-Laboratory at ASU. My work focuses on exploring the sources, mechanisms, and consequences of cultural differences, change,  and human universals in a variety of psychological processes and behavioral tendencies.

Email: mvarnum@asu.edu

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=mbqOySoAAAAJ&hl=en

OSF: https://osf.io/7epr5/

Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Varnum

Lab Websites: https://psychology.asu.edu/research/labs/culture-and-ecology-lab-varnum ; https://psychology.asu.edu/research/labs/evolutionary-social-psychology-co-laboratory

Blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/unserious-psychology

X:  (aka platform formerly known as Twitter): @Kenbergerum [Evolutionary Social Psychology Co-Laboratory]

I'm also a co-founder of the  Forecasting Collaborative and the World After Covid Project ,  and I'm a member of the Psychological Science Accelerator. 

Research Interests

Broadly speaking I am interested in how culture effects the ways we think, feel, and behave. I am also interested in the causes (both proximal and distal) of cultural variations and cultural changes in these phenomena. My research combines theoretical frameworks from cultural psychology, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral ecology.

Ecological Causes of Cultural Variation: In this line of work I have explored how features of the ecology may patterns of cultural variation. This work has explored ecological explanations for cultural variations in a wide range of phenomena from conformity, to life history strategy, to the propensity to engage in violence. Most recently we have sought to provide a range of estimates of the overall linkage between ecology and cultural variation around the globe.

Cultural Change: In this line of research I have documented cultural shifts in variables including individualism/collectivism, contempt, gender equality, innovation, and the complexity of cultural products. Together with my collaborators we have used an ecological framework to understand the causes of these many of these shifts.  We have also explored cultural evolutionary processes. The hope is to create a predictive science that will enable us to forecast how cultures will change.

Expert Forecasting: In this line of work, my collaborators and I have sought to assess the accuracy with which social scientists and others can predict or forecast societal trends. This work explores factors linked to more accurate forecasting/prediction as well as the processes people use when making judgments about the future.

Some of my other current research interests include universals and variations in human motivation, social class, female sociality, and individual and societal responses to the potential discovery of life off of the earth.

For a complete list of publications see Publications. My CV is available here and links to Media Coverage of my research can be found here.