Robert Kurzban

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Robert Kurzban is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in evolutionary psychology. He was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on September 29, 1969. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Cornell University in 1991. A lifelong love of Disney led him to take a job in 1992 at Euro Disney. He returned to academia in 1993 and completed his PhD in the Psychology Department at UCSB in 1998. He continued his training with postdoctoral work in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA, and the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech. He also spent two years at the Economic Science Laboratory the University of Arizona with Nobel Laureate Vernon L. Smith. Kurzban’s research focuses on evolutionary approaches to understanding human social behavior. He founded the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Evolution and Human Behavior, the official journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.


Robert Kurzban was trained by two pioneers in the field of evolutionary psychology, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides and his research reflects this background. He takes an adaptationist view of human psychology, and his work is aimed at understanding the functions of psychological mechanisms designed around social life. He uses methods drawn from social psychology, cognitive psychology, and especially experimental economics. His early work investigated the social category "race" and was directed at the hypothesis that people "automatically" encode the race of people they observe. Kurzban argued that because humans evolved in a world in which they rarely if ever encountered people of very different physical appearance from themselves, it was unlikely that the human mind was designed to encode what is currently referred to as race. A series of experiments [1] showed that with a relatively minor manipulation in the laboratory, the extent to which people categorized others by race could be reduced. He has also done research on cooperation, mate choice (and speed dating), and morality.

Evolutionary psychology has come under attack from a number of critics. Kurzban has been active in defending the discipline from prominent detractors and also worked to clarify the principle of cognitive modularity, which plays an important role in the discipline.[2] In 2009, he also gave a plenary address at the annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Fullerton, CA.

His first book, Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, was published by Princeton University Press in 2010.

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