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Human - Nature: A Darwinian Psychology of Environmental Sustainability

Van Vugt, M. (2012). Presentation to European conference on sustainability, June 2012.


My main research interest is the study of group and organizational processes. I study these themes primarily from an evolutionary psychological perspective. In my research I look at all sorts of human groups, from small groups to large social networks. In my research I use a variety of research tools from experimental social psychology, cognitive psychology, behavioural economics, and neuroscience to find out more about questions such as:

How do groups organize themselves, how do they deal with social dilemma and with freeriders, how do they promote altruism and cooperation among their members, how do they resolve problems of leadership and status, and how do they interact with other groups?

As an evolutionary-minded psychologist, I am primarily interested in the psychological aspects of group and organziational behaviour (the proximate question), for example, why some people behave more selfishly and others altruistically. But I am also interested in how humans came to be a group-living species, and which psychological adaptations enable humans to successfully negotiate the various challenges and opportunities of group life (the ultimate question).

Here are some specific research projects that I and my research collaborators are currently working on. Publications from these projects are available as PDF.

Professor Mark van Vugt offers advice, consulting and training in leadership and management, team conflict and negotiations and integroup relations for both companies, local and national governments and NGO's.

Much of this consultancy work is done through NIMEP, the Netherlands Institute for Management and Evolutionary Psychology.

Mark van Vugt has done consultancy jobs with a number of private and public organizations including, for example, LTP, Mandev, TNO, De Brauw, the Dutch national government, the Singapore national government, the British government, FNV, English Nature, UK National Health Services, Southern Water, and Southampton Football Club.

He gives regular public lectures on issues related to leadership, management, sustainability and evolutioanry psychology.

Mark van Vugt offers advice on a range of applied problems with social and psychological aspects such as environmental sustainability, charity giving, transport, anti-social behaviour, and social exclusion. All of the work is done with the use of rigorous psychological theory and research.  The objective is to improve the welfare of individuals, communities, organizations and societies through improving leadership, trust, and cooperative skills.


Evolutionary Psychology Lab @VU

Our interest is in studying human social and organizational behaviour from an evolutionary theoretical framework to develop ideas and research questions. Members of the research group at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam study a variety of topics including leadership and followership, power and conflict, emotions, altruism and cooperation, costly signalling, intergroup relations and sex differences. We use a combination of laboratory experiments, neuroscience studies, surveys and field research (visit the VU website for more information on the EPLab@VU).

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