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After doing my undergraduate thesis in cognitive psychology, I worked in research laboratories specializing in both developmental and comparative psychology. I completed my PhD in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA, where my dissertation work combined evolutionary anthropology with cross-cultural, developmental, and comparative psychology. After my PhD, I continued to do postdoctoral work in these areas at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, and in the Institute for Human Origins at Arizona State University.
I study decision-making and behaviour in adults and children, how these vary across diverse societies, and how they are shaped by both cultural beliefs and evolved adaptations. In particular, I look at the development of prosocial behaviour.
Culture and Social Development
This work explores how prosocial behaviour changes across development, in response to both an increasing sensitivity to social norms and the maturation of psychological mechanisms for reciprocal cooperation. Using behavioural experiments with children and adults living in different societies, I study how our universal human psychology for norms and cooperation can lead to the emergence of cultural diversity in behaviour during childhood. The goal of this work is to better understand how culture and psychological maturation work together to produce human diversity in cooperation and other behaviours.
Species Differences in Behaviour
I am also interested in studying how and why chimpanzees and other primates make choices that benefit others, and comparing non-human primates' choices to the choices that humans make in very similar kinds of situations. This gives us insight into the ways that humans differ from other animals, and how these differences emerge from uniquely human capacities for culture. The goal of this work is to draw clearer conclusions about the nature of the evolved psychological adaptations that produce human cooperative behaviours.