Latest Books

Recent Publications

On Faces, Gazes, Votes, and Followers:

Vugt, M. (2013). On faces, gazes, votes, and followers: Evolutionary and social neuroscience approaches to leadership. In J. Decety & Y. Christen (ed.), New Frontiers in Social Neurosc [ ... ]

Naturally green: Harnessing stone age psychological biases to foster environmental behavior.

Van Vugt, M., Griskevcius, V., & Schultz, P. W. (2014). Naturally green: Harnessing stone age psychological biases to foster environmental behavior. Social Issues and Policy Review, 8, 1-32.

Think leader, think white? Capturing and weakening an implici pro-white leadership bias

Gu¨ ndemir S, Homan AC, de Dreu CKW, van Vugt M (2014) Think Leader, Think White? Capturing and Weakening an Implicit Pro-White Leadership Bias. PLoS ONE 9(1): e83915. doi:10.1371/journal.pone. [ ... ]


The purpose of this website is to provide information and knowledge about my research and teaching in evolutionary psychology, social and organizational psychology. My particular interests and expertise lie in the field of evolutionary psychology and how evolutionary thinking can be usefully applied to understand group dynamics, leadership and followership, status and power relations, altruism and cooperation, group cohesion, and intergroup relations. I am using a range of methodologies from experimental psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics to test evolutionary hypotheses.

Here is a great introductory piece on evolutionary psychology for those of you interested in this emerging field.

I have also a keen interest in applications of evolutionary psychology to societal problems regarding business and management, sex differences in social behaviour, environmental conservation and sustainability, politics and warfare, economics and finance, health and poverty, charity and philanthropy.

This website provides a place to share information about these themes. 

As a researcher and teacher, I am deeply committed to knowledge transfer, learning, and adopting an interdisciplinary perspective. I also regularly giving public lectures, write blogs, and conduct consultancy projects on topics related to my expertise especially in the areas of leadership development, businesss and management, environmental sustainability, politics,and sex differences from an evolutioanry perspective.

Lecture slides, and printouts of articles and book chapters (written with many esteemed colleagues and students) are availaible as PDFs on my website, see publications. Please contact me if you have any questions about any of my research projects. 



Mark Van Vugt, Professor of Psychology




*Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, VU University Amsterdam,  

Transitorium. room 1 B-29, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

**Institute for Cogntive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK

***Centre for the Study of Group Processes, University of Kent, UK  

What's New?

For my interdisciplinary research on evolutionary psychology I received the Joannes Juda Groen award recently from SIGO (Centre for Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research).

The award includes a monetary prize that I can spend on research.

We contributed to UNESCO's World Social Science Report (2013) on Changing Global Environments bringing an evolutionary perspective to sustainable behavior change.

I visited the Dutch Parliament to talk about isses regarding sustainability and behavior change.

I am a blogger for the Volkskrant, a national newspaper in the Netherlands, on all sorts of topics around the brain, society and evolution.

I am part of an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers studying Leadership and Hierarchy in Animal and Human Societies. This research team consists of anthropogists, biologists, mathematicians, and (evolutionary) psychologists and convenes at the National Institute for Mathematics and Systems Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

I  gave a talk at the "New Frontiers in Social Neuroscience" conference in Paris (March 2013), organized by the Ipsen Foundation, on "Leadership: An Organizational Neuroscience Perspective." Here is the press release with a summary of this 1 day conference.

Darwin en duurzaamheid. Interview for EOS science magazine about evolutionary psychology and sustainability.

I recently gave a talk for the Cliniclowns on our research, titled "Laughter as painkiller: On the evolution and psychology of laughter and humor" (Lachen als Pijnstiller). The slides (in Dutch) can be found under "lectures/presentations"

Here are the proofs of a chapter, titled "Evolution and Groups" that I wrote together with Tatsuya Kameda for the new 2012 Handbook of Group Processes. We have a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, titled "The Evolutionary Bases for Sustainable Behavior: Implications for Marketing, Policy and Social Entrepreneurship" (with Vlad Griskevicius and Stephanie Cantu).  It is one of the first attempts to use an evolutionary psychology framework to understand environmental problems and how to foster environmental sustainability.

Call for papers special journal issue of Evolutionary Psychology on "Evolutionary psychology in the modern world: Applications, perspectives and strategies" (guest editors: Craig Roberts, Robin Dunbar, and Mark van Vugt); deadline abstracts 30 November.


A new grant-funded research project is the "Groene Schoolpleinen"-project (met Dr. Jolanda Maas), funded by Produktschap Tuinbouw and Jantje Beton. This looks at the social and cognitive effects on children of greening up school yards in the Netherlands.

Current NWO (Dutch Science Foundation) funded research projects include "The Psychology of Intergroup Helping" (with Dr. Esther van Leeuwen) and "Ethnic Leadership" (with Dr. Astrid Homan). These are Mozaiek grants for PhD-students Katherina Alvarez and Seval Gundemir. 

Previous grants include "Leadership in social networks" (with Dr,. Brian Spisak funded by US Naval Office) and "the social guilt hypothesis" (with DR. Roger Giner-Sorolla, University of Kent, funded by ESRC).

We have also obtained KNAW funding for a NIAS/Lorentz workshop on "biological markets and social dilemmas"(with Ronald Noe) in January 2012. 

Past research has been funded through the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), The British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust,  The US Office of Naval Research, and various governments and NGO's.

In the news


Sinds kort schrijf ik een weblog voor de Volkskrant VONK. De titel van mijn blog is Hoofdzaak. In deze blog bekijk en interpreteer ik actuele gebeurtenissen in de samenleving, politiek en economie door de (Darwinistische) bril van de evolutionaire wetenschapper. 

Mijn nieuwe boek "Gezag: De wetenschap van macht, gezag en leiderschap"(vertaling: Prestige) verschijnt in November 2012 bij de Arbeiderspers/Bruna. Het is geschreven samen met organisatie-adviseur Max Wildschut.

Bij de Nederlandse verkiezingen deden we een onderzoek, in samenwerking met NRC en Psychologie Magazine, waarbij we de gezichten van de politieke leiders manipuleerden

(met PhD-student Allen Grabo) 

The New Scientist (15 September 2012) featured our research on evolutionary psychology and sustainability: Let's use evolution to turn us green.

Een interview met dabglad Trouw over de evolutionaire psychologie van duurzaamheid op 30 Juli 2012 "Bedwing je oerinstinct en redt het milieu" (online). Of download het interview als pdf.

Our research on the male warrior hypothesis has attracted a lot of media interest, including from the Daily Telegraph,  The Independent, the New York Daily News, and de Volksrant (January 2012)


I am working with a number of overseas scholars from various disciplines such as psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, neuroscience, on the "Tribal Brain"project.This project examines the evidence that humans possess specialized neural and psychological mechanisms for engaging in relations with memebrs of other groups (both conflict and cooperation; war and peace). This is based on the idea that conflict and cooperation between groups was a (strong) selection force on humans in our species' evolutionary past. 

I am working with a team of evolutionary biologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians on a project on "Hierarchy and Leadership in Mamallian Societies.This project examines the evidence that humans possess specialized neural and psychological mechanisms for engaging in relations with memebrs of other groups (both conflict and cooperation; war and peace). This is based on the idea that conflict and cooperation between groups was a (strong) selection force on humans in our species' evolutionary past. 

Currenty I have a number of collaborations with colleagues at the various Dutch universities participating in the "Executive Brain" project. University of Kent (social guilt hypothesis), University of Edinburgh and Michigan State University(the male warrior hypothesis), Bristol University (evolutionary psychology of intergroup relations), University of Oxford (social laughter), University of Pennsylvania (evolution of leadership), University of Minnesota (evolutionary psychology of environmental sustainability), and Washington State University (book on social dilemmas)