About me: I am an interdisciplinary researcher at the University of Oxford, who studies human behaviour. My work was described in the Financial Times as ‘silo-busting’, because I work at the interface of biology and the social sciences. I currently study risky decision-making, the effect of leadership on social evolution, social learning and how our environment affects the social behaviours we perform.
I am trained as an evolutionary biologist, but today I collaborate with psychologists, anthropologists, economists, lawyers, mathematicians and political theorists who share my interest in human behaviour. I am convinced that evolutionary ideas are relevant outside biology and that answers to some of society’s biggest challenges may be found through such radically interdisciplinary work.
This is why I am engaging with policymakers, economists and business leaders who are interested in the insights the natural world can provide.
My Research: My work involves theoretical, experimental and observational research: (1) I design and run economic experiments (where people earn money by playing social-dilemma ‘games’), at Oxford’s Centre for Experiment Social Science. I use these to understand how people learn and respond to social interactions; (2) I build mathematical evolutionary models to investigate how cultures evolve over time and to investigate the origins of social behaviours; (3) I collect data from real communities and organisations to see how these theoretical models and economic experiments relate to human behaviour in the real-world.
My recent work involves collaborations with the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School (INET), Oxford Risk and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS).
In addition to humans, I’ve used evolutionary models to study a range of systems including HIV virulence, the squid-bioluminescent bacteria mutualism, plant-fungi mutualisms, cooperative breeding in birds and policing in insects.
Position: I’m currently a lecturer in Human Sciences at Wadham College, Oxford University. I’m also a Research Fellow in the Zoology Department and I am a retained lecturer in Biology at Pembroke College.
Teaching: In addition to my academic research, I give lectures on human social behaviour, behavioural economics and cultural evolution to Oxford undergraduate students. I supervise Honours project students and offer tutorials on the third-year ‘Behavioural Ecology’, ‘Animal Cognition’ and ‘Social Evolution’ courses.