image of david sloan wilson


Professor of Biological Sciences

Phone: 607-777-4393

Research Interests

I am an evolutionary biologist who studies a broad range of questions utilizing a broad range of organisms. I also have a strong interest in human behavior from an evolutionary perspective.

Research in my lab on nonhuman species includes the study of individual differences in animal behavior, such as shyness/boldness or cooperation/exploitation . We know that people vary greatly in their dispositions, but do similar differences exist in other species and how can such differences in humans and nonhumans alike be explained from an evolutionary perspective? Another focus is on the advantages and disadvantages of living in groups.

Research in my lab on humans includes many of the same questions that we ask about other species (e.g., individual differences, the advantages of living in groups), although the research methods, of course, must be different. In collaboration with Dr. Ralph Miller, we have studied the cognitive advantages of social interactions (brainstorming), individual differences in cooperation/exploitation (Machiavellianism), and the nature of social norms and religion from an evolutionary perspective.

Contact Information

Contact David Sloan Wilson, ext. 7-4393.


Students who want to work in my lab should have a strong interest in the "big" questions about human and animal nature and should have taken as many courses as possible in ecology, behavior, and evolution. They should also consider taking my course in evolution and human behavior (BIOL 470, which is cross-listed with the Psychology Department). I do not have strict prerequisites but usually there are many more students wanting to work in my lab than we can accommodate, and we naturally take those who are best qualified.

Last Updated: 1/16/17