Daniel Sznycer


Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Montreal

Research Scientist, Center for Evolutionary Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara


University of Montreal
Department of Psychology
Pavillon Marie-Victorin – C-348
90 Vincent d’Indy Ave.
Montreal, QC, H3C 3J7




514-343-6111, X36889 

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Ph.D.   University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010

        Center for Evolutionary Psychology

        Principal advisor: John Tooby (Department of Anthropology); co-advisor: Leda Cosmides (Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences)

       Dissertation Title: Cognitive adaptations for calibrating welfare tradeoff motivations, with special reference to the emotion of shame


B.A.     Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2002



Research focus


I am an evolutionary psychologist conducting research on the psychology of sociality. I combine methods, theories, and concepts drawn from the cognitive sciences and evolutionary biology to explore and map the evolved design of social emotions and their underlying motivational systems. I have multiple lines of cross-cultural evidence on shame, pride, compassion, and envy, and their roles in altruism, cooperation, social exclusion, and conflict. I am also working to map the system that regulates how much weight one individual places on the welfare of another. I conduct research on how these emotions and motivations regulate political and moral attitudes, and how they shape communication. The methods I use include experimental economic games, decision-making tasks, priming methods, cross-cultural and ethnographic data collection, large-scale representative surveys, and anthropometry.




Sznycer, D., Lopez Seal, M. F., Sell, A., Lim, J., Porat, R., Shalvi, S., Halperin, E., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2017). Support for redistribution is shaped by compassion, envy, and self-interest, but not a taste for fairness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(31), 8420–8425. │ SI

Sell, A., Sznycer, D., Al-Shawaf, L., Lim, J., Krauss, A., Feldman, A., Rascanu, R., Sugiyama, L., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J. (2017). The grammar of anger: Mapping the computational architecture of a recalibrational emotion. Cognition, 168, 110–128. │ SI

Sznycer, D., Al-Shawaf, L., Bereby-Meyer, Y., Curry, O. S., De Smet, D., Ermer, E., Kim, S., Kim, S., Li, N. P., Lopez Seal, M. F., McClung, J., O, J., Ohtsubo, Y., Quillien, T., Schaub, M., Sell, A., van Leeuwen, F., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2017). Cross-cultural regularities in the cognitive architecture of prideProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(8), 1874–1879. │ SI

Sznycer, D., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2017). Adaptationism carves emotions at their functional jointsInvited commentary in Psychological Inquiry, 28(1), 56–62

Sell, A., Sznycer, D., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Krauss, A., Nisu, S., Ceapa, C., & Petersen, M. B. (2017). Physically strong men are more militant: A test across four countriesEvolution and Human Behavior, 38(3), 334340. │ SI

Sznycer, D., De Smet, D., Billingsley, J., & Lieberman, D. (2016). Coresidence duration and cues of maternal investment regulate sibling altruism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(2), 159177. │ SI

Sznycer, D., Tooby, J., Cosmides, L., Porat, R., Shalvi, S., & Halperin, E. (2016). Shame closely tracks the threat of devaluation by others, even across culturesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(10), 26252630. │ SI │ More information about the paper

Sznycer, D., Schniter, E., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2015). Regulatory adaptations for delivering information: the case of confessionEvolution and Human Behavior, 36(1), 4451. │ SI

Petersen, M. B.*, Sznycer, D.*, Sell, A., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2013). The ancestral logic of politics: Upper body strength regulates men's assertion of self-interest over economic redistributionPsychological Science, 24(7), 10981103. │ SI
* indicates joint first authorship

Schniter, E., Sheremeta, R. M., & Sznycer, D. (2012). Building and rebuilding trust with promises and apologiesJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 94, 242256. │ SI

Sznycer, D., Takemura, K., Delton, A. W., Sato, K., Robertson, T., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (2012). Cross-cultural differences and similarities in proneness to shame: An adaptationist and ecological approachEvolutionary Psychology, 10(2), 352370. │ SI

Petersen, M. B., Sznycer, D., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2012). Who Deserves Help? Evolutionary Psychology, Social Emotions, and Public Opinion about WelfarePolitical Psychology, 33 (3), 395418.

Sznycer, D., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2011). Evolutionary psychology. In P. C. Hogan (Ed.) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences (pp. 295299). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Sell, A., Bryant, G., Cosmides, L. Tooby, J., Sznycer, D., von Rueden, C., Krauss, A., & Gurven, M. (2010). Adaptations in humans for assessing physical strength from the voice. Proceedings of the Royal Society London (Biological Sciences)277, 35093518.

Sell, A., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Sznycer, D., von Rueden, C., & Gurven, M. (2009). Human adaptations for the visual assessment of strength and fighting ability from the body and face. Proceedings of the Royal Society London (Biological Sciences), 276, 575584.

Tooby, J., Cosmides, L., Sell, A., Lieberman, D. & Sznycer, D.  (2008). Internal regulatory variables and the design of human motivation: A computational and evolutionary approach. In Andrew J. Elliot (Ed.) Handbook of approach and avoidance motivation (pp. 251271). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.