Robert Kurzban

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Robert Kurzban is a psychologist 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. Interest in Disney productions throughout his youth, led him to take a job at Euro Disney in 1992.

He returned to academia in 1993 and completed his Ph.D. 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 of the University of Arizona studying 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 previously served 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, studying the adaptive function, or, survival value, in the adoption of traits by humans. His work is aimed at understanding the functions of psychological mechanisms occurring in human social life. He uses methods drawn from social psychology, cognitive psychology, and especially, experimental economics.

His early work investigated the social category described as "race" and it was directed at a hypothesis being proposed at the time, 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 significantly different physical appearance from themselves, it was unlikely that the human brain evolved with a mechanism 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 also has done research on cooperation, morality, and mate choice (including speed dating).

Evolutionary psychology has come under attack from a number of critics. Kurzban has been active in defending the discipline from prominent detractors and also has worked to clarify the principle of cognitive modularity, which plays an important role in the discipline.[2]

In 2009, he gave a plenary address at the annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Fullerton, California.

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

Allegations of Sexual Relationships With Female Undergraduate Students[edit]

In April 2018, the Daily Pennsylvanian published stories containing allegations from two separate female undergraduate students that Kurzban had sexual relations with them in apparent violation of University policy. Kurzban was the minor advisor of one of the students during the time of their alleged relationship.[3][4][5]

Following the allegations of improper conduct, Kurzban stepped down as the Editor-in-Chief of Evolution and Human Behavior, as President of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.[6] He was further removed from teaching duties for the fall schedule while allegations were investigated.[7] Kurzban resigned from the University of Pennsylvania in July 2018.[8]

Selected publications[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]