University of British Columbia
Deartment of Psychology Department of Economics
Published and Forthcoming Books
Book Chapters



Grants and Reearch Projects

Culture Cognition and Coevolution Lab



Research Program: Coevolution, Development, Cognition & Cultural Learning

Cultural Learning, Development and Cognition:

  • What are the psychological processes that allow children and adults to acquire culture (ideas, beliefs, values, ways of thinking, and habits of mind)?
  • Who do people pay attention to for social learning, and how do they integrate information across different people?
  • What kinds of inferential assumptions are brought into the cultural learning processes

Coevolutionary Origins of Human Cultural Learning Capacities, Cognition, and Sociality

  • How can the logic of natural selection and data from ancient environments be combined to predict the kinds of learning mechanisms make up our cultural learning abilities?
  • How can we explain the tremendous success of the human species and the unique nature of our cognitive abilities?
  • What are the evolutionary origins of prestige and prestige-biased transmission
  • The evolution of cooperation, institutions, societal complexity: How and why did some human groups develop large-scale cooperation, complexity and specific social forms?
  • Common pool resource and public goods problems: How do societies solve, or fail to solve, these social dilemmas?
  • Evolution of social stratification: why do some societies have classes and why do they often persist for long periods?
  • Culture and cumulative adaptation: How, and when does cultural transmission lead to cumulative adaptation?

How can we build a theory of economic decision-making that takes culture and evolved psychology seriously?

  • Given what is known about cultural learning and human decision-making, how can we construct of psychologically-based theory that can account for pattern of economic behavior and change.
  • What are the origins of people's preferences and beliefs?
  • What is the origin of risk aversion in people's decision-making about money? Why are people from some populations not risk averse?
  • What causes novel economic practices and technologies to diffuse through populations?
  • Are social norms internalized and how does this influence decision-making?

The Evolution of Religious Beliefs, Rituals, and Institutions

  • How have religious beliefs, rituals and institutions coevolved over human history?
  • How do reliably developing aspects of human cognition influence the content of religions?
  • How do religious beliefs, and ritual participation, influence sociality, altrusim, prosociality and decision-making?
  • What is the impact of competition among religious institutions on the nature of beliefs and rituals?

Methodological Interests

  • Intregating experimental techniques from cognitive and development psychology and experimental economics with in-depth, long-term field ethnography
  • Measuring social norms and emotions
  • Cultural Consensus Modeling--measuring culture and cultural varation, both within and between social groups.
  • Social Network and Cultural Information Networks
  • Ethological observation and video techniques
  • Evolutionary game theory and simulation

Field and Regional Interests

  • Amazonia (Peruvian Amazon and the Machiguenga)
  • Oceania (Fiji, in the Yasawa Islands)
  • Chile (Among the Mapuche around Chol-Chol)