John Tooby

For the last two decades, Tooby and his collaborators have been integrating cognitive science, cultural anthropology, evolutionary biology, paleoanthropology, cognitive neuroscience, and hunter-gatherer studies to create the new field of evolutionary psychology. The goal of evolutionary psychology is the progressive mapping of the universal evolved cognitive and neural architecture that constitutes human nature, and provides the basis of the learning mechanisms responsible for culture. This involves using knowledge of specific adaptive problems our hunter-gatherer ancestors encountered to experimentally map the design of the cognitive and emotional mechanisms that evolved among our hominid ancestors to solve them. Tooby is co-director of UCSB's Center for Evolutionary Psychology, where Tooby and his collaborators use cross-cultural, experimental, and neuroscience techniques to investigate specific cognitive specializations for cooperation, coalitions, group psychology, and human reasoning. Under Tooby's direction, the Center maintains a field station in Ecuadorian Amazonia in order to conduct cross-cultural studies of psychological adaptations and human behavioral ecology. He is particularly interested in documenting how the design of these adaptations shapes cultural and social phenomena, and potentially forms the foundation for a new, more precise generation of social and cultural theories. Tooby is also working on several projects in evolutionary biology, including a book on the evolution of sexual reproduction and genetic systems that interprets their design features as a series of adaptations to parasitic infections.

Sample of Publications

  • "The Reconstruction of Hominid Behavioral Evolution Through Strategic Modeling." Primate Models of Hominid Behavior, edited by W. Kinzey. New York: SUNY Press, 1987 (with Irven DeVore).
  • "On the Universality of Human Nature and the Uniqueness of the Individual: The Role of Genetics and Adaptation." Journal of Personality, 58(1):17-67, 1990 (with Leda Cosmides).
  • "The Psychological Foundations of Culture," The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, edited by J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, and J. Tooby. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992 (with Leda Cosmides).

Courses Taught

Back to faculty page Back to main page

Updated June 8, 2004