Behavioral Biology Lab

Human Research

Evolution of Human Behavior

Research includes theoretical studies of the phylogenetic history of human behavior and its adaptive significance, as well as experimental studies of human behavior in relation to life history mating strategies, reproduction social and romantic relationships, cooperation and competition kinship, nepotism parenting, child development, risk-taking, and decision-making.

Biological and environmental regulation of human behavior

We investigate the biological (e.g. genetic, neural, and neuroendocrine) bases of many aspects of human social behavior including: affiliation, altruism, and cooperation, competition and aggression, courtship, mate attraction and sociosexual relationships, parental responsiveness and attachment, and communication. We are also interested in the biological and environmental regulation of emotional, motivational, and cognitive processes, including arousal, risk-taking, reward-seeking, and stress reactivity. One main area of research focuses on individual and sex differences in human personality and behavior in relation to sex and stress hormones (our laboratory is equipped to run hormonal assays). Another area of research focuses on responsiveness to social stimuli (e.g. attractive adult faces, infants and children) and stressful social situations. We are also interested in studying the biological substrates of decision-making using experimental paradigms imported from behavioral economics and neuroeconomics.

Animal Research

Evolution of Animal Behavior

We are interested in the phylogenetic history of animal behavior and
its adaptive significance, with regard to social and mating systems, life history, social behavior, and communication and cognition. We are interested in the theoretical study of the development of behavior, sex differences and other stable individual differences (personality), and the intergenerational transmission of behavior through genetic and environmental (e.g. maternal) effects.

Biological and environmental regulation of nonhuman primate behavior

Since the late 1980s, we have conducted research on many aspects of behavior in different species of nonhuman primates including macaques, baboons, and the great apes. This research has been conducted in different settings (e.g., research facilities, zoos, naturalistic environments, and in the field) and with a variety of methods (e.g., observation, experiments, and collection of biological samples for genetic, neurochemical, neuroendocrine, immunological, and metabolic assays). In recent years, research has concentrated on the effects of genes and early experience on behavioral, cognitive, and neuroendocrine development, the study of social relationships, and the adaptive significance of variation in mating and reproductive strategies.