Research at PLEEP

Experimental Evolutionary Psychology is the application of the principles of evolution by natural selection to understanding human behavior. The PLEEP lab conducts research informed by these ideas, primarily focused on human social behavior. For those new to the field, this primer is an excellent place to start. 

We use an array of methods to address hypotheses. Most frequently we use experimental methods, and the lab is particularly engaged in research using the tools of experimental economics. However, we also use other techniques, including simple surveys, analysis of data from the field, and so on. Where possible, we try to replicate results across sample populations and across cultural contexts. Please see the papers on Dr. Kurzban's publications page and Dr. Apicella's publications page for more.

Dr. Kurzban's research focuses on some of the principle building blocks of human sociality, including cooperation in both dyads and groups, morality, friendship, and mating. In all of these cases, there is a strong emphasis on strategy, understanding these phenomena in the context of how psychological mechanisms are designed to make social decisions to improve fitness outcomes in a world in which others are designed to do the same. Research begins with questions about the strategic function of the mechanisms that underlie social behavior.

Dr. Apicella's research is done primarily on the Hadza, o

ne of the last remaining hunter-gatherer populations in Africa, as well as Westerners. She attempts to explore the proximate and evolutionary origins of behavior. Her work specializes in physical and vocal attractiveness, behavioral endocrinology, and behavioral economics and social networks.

In all of this work, hypotheses are generated by considering adaptive problems likely faced by our ancestors, and the design of computational mechanisms designed to solve these problems. There is a strong emphasis on the possibility that these mechanisms are likely to be “modular,” narrowly specialized for solving these problems.