Evolution and Social Cognition

Understanding social behaviours requires both proximate and ultimate explanations. Proximate explanations seek to understand how a given behaviour works - what are its cognitive bases? - while ultimate explanations aim to explain why it exists - why was it selected by evolution?

Over the last twenty years, these two perspectives have developed relatively independently from each other. On the one hand, cognitive psychology studies the workings of mechanisms that are dedicated to the social world: theory of mind, moral judgments, social motivation, cultural transmission, reputation management, etc. On the other hand, evolutionary biology investigates the function of these mechanisms: Why are humans both altruistic and selfish? How can communication develop if cheating and manipulation are possible? Are humans specifically adapted to culture? Despite the success of these two research programs, they have remained relatively isolated from an academic standpoint. The goal of the Evolution and Social Cognition team is to bring these two strands of research together.

Our research focuses on three main areas - Cooperation, Morality and Social Motivation - and borrows tools from both biology and cognitive sciences: modeling, game theory, economic games, comparative psychology, developmental psychology, psychopathology...

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