Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology
The purpose of this website is to provide information and disseminate knowledge about my research, teaching, and consultancy in organizational psychology and evolutionary psychology.
My particular expertise lies in the field of evolutionary approaches to social and organizational behavior. I am interested in how evolutionary theory can be applied to understand group dynamics, organziational behavior, leadership, status, power, conflict and cooperation, and intergroup relations. In our lab at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) we are using a range of methodologies from experimental psychology, social neuroscience, and behavioral economics to test hypotheses about human group behavior and its evolutionary roots.
Here is some information about the VU LeadershipLab that I co-direct. The LeadershipLab was recently established as a tool for multi-disciplinary research, training and development for Leaders and Boardrooms of public and private organizations about matters of leadership and governance. Please contact me for more information about this unique facility.
Pre-order a copy now at Amazon.Com (or any other bookseller)
Outline: An exciting new popular psychology book looking at the troubling conflict between how our brains have evolved to meet Stone Age demands, and the very different modern problems of the world we now live in. Our brains evolved to solve the survival problems of our Stone Age ancestors, so when faced with modern day situations that are less extreme, they often encounter a mismatch. Our primitive brains put us on the wrong foot by responding to stimuli that - in prehistoric times - would have prompted behaviour that was beneficial. If you've ever felt an anxious fight or flight response to a presenting at a board meeting, equivalent to facing imminent death by sabre-toothed tiger, then you have experienced a mismatch. Mismatch is about the clash between our biology and our culture. It is about the dramatic contrast between the first few million years of human history - when humans lived as hunters and gatherers in small-scale societies - and the past twelve thousand years following the agricultural revolution which have led us to comfortable lives in a very different social structure. Has this rapid transition been good for us? How do we, using our primitive minds, try to survive in a modern information society that radically changes every ten years or so?
Ronald Giphart and Mark van Vugt show that humans have changed their environment so drastically that the chances for mismatch have significantly increased, and these conflicts can have profound consequences. Reviewed through mismatch glasses, social, societal, and technological trends can be better understood, ranging from the popularity of Facebook and internet porn, to the desire for cosmetic surgery, to our attitudes towards refugees. Mismatches can also affect our physical and psychological well-being, in terms of our attitudes to happiness, physical exercise, choosing good leaders, or finding ways to feel better at home or work. Finally, Mismatch gives us an insight into politics and policy which could enable governments, institutions and businesses to create an environment better suited to human nature, its potential and its constraints.This book is about converting mismatches into matches. The better your life is matched to how your mind operates, the greater your chances of leading a happy, healthy and productive life.
How Can Evolutionary Thinking Transform the Workplace? A special issue of This View of Business. Evolution Institute. With contributions from many different specialists, including Nigel Nicholson, Phanish Puranam, Rory Sutherland, John Antonakis. Co-editos, Mark van Vugt, Max Beilby, David Sloan Wilson. Available for download.
I was a science adviser to a Dutch media campaign from SIRE to gain attention for the educational and behavioral problems of boys in the Netherlands "Laat jij jouw jongen genoeg jongen zijn". This campaign caused quite a stir in the Netherlands and was criticized by gender feminists, blank slate social activitsis,, and other sex difference deniers. A few years ago I wrote a column in de Volkskrant about the different natures of boys and girls.
I gave a 15 minute lecture to the University of Nederland with the title "Are women better leaders than men?." It is available on youtube. Only available in Dutch.
Here is the link to a webinar I recently gave about our book Naturally Selected: the Evolutionary Science of Leadership. It is part of the This View of Life book of the month series from the Evolution Institute. You can join TVOL1000 here if you want to know more about how evolutiuoanry science applies to social problems.
Since February 2017 I am the co-director of the Amsterdam Leadership and Governance Lab of the Vrije Universiteit (with prof. Gerda van Dijk, an organisation ecologist). The LeadershipLab aims to study leadership and group dynamic processes at Boardrooms of public and private organziations. We offer help with self-evaluations and improving boardroompractices, while collecting high quality science data from boards using a combination of interviews, questionaires, expertiments, and neuroscience methods. Any interest in being an external partner, mail me at m.van.vugt(at)vu.nl.
Onlangs ben ik gestart met mijn wetenschapskolumn voor de zaterdageditie van dagblad Trouw. De kolumn heet Hoofdzaak en gaat over de merkwaardige aspecten van het menselijk gedrag bezien door de bril van de psychologie, en in het bijzonder de evolutionaire psychologie.
Our popular science book "Mismatch: How Our Stone Age Brains Deceive Us Daily" will be realeased in the UK and US in early 2018 (LittleBrown is the publisher). Here is the executive summary. The book is a co-product of an evoutionary scientist (Mark van Vugt) with a best-selling novel writer (Ronald Giphart) about the mismatch between our modern environment and the ancestral environment in which humans evolved (and the consequences of this mismatch for our physical and mental wellbeing, e.g., obesity, depression, burnout, stress, divorce, xenophobia, social inequality, CEO pay, etc.).
Het populair wetenschappelijk boek "Mismatch: Hoe We Dagelijks Worden Misleid Door Ons Oeroude Brein" (Ronald Giphart & Mark van Vugt) is net verschenen, Inzichten uit de evolutionaire psychologie worden op een luchtige manier toegepast op uiteenlopende onderwerpen als de liefde (beinvloedt pilgebruik je partnerkeuze?), opvoeding (voeden we onze kinderen niet te beschermd op?), werk (waarom zijn bonussen geen goed idee?), leiderschap (waarom krijgen we hoofdpijn van onze baas?), media (waarom denken we dat TV persoonlijkheden onze vrienden zijn?), en oorlog (wat verklaart de aantrekkingskracht van IS?). Het boek is verschenen bij Uitgeverij Podium.
[The popular science book "Mismatch: How Our Ancestral Mind Deceives Us Daily" was recently released (Ronald Giphart & Mark van Vugt). We apply insights from evolutionary psychology in a lighthearted manner to diverse topics such as love (does the pill affect your partner choice?), education (are we too protective of our children?), work (is handing out a bonus a good idea?), leadership (why do our bosses give us headaches?), media (why do we think TV personalities are our best friends?) and war (what explains the appeal of ISIS to young men and women?). The book is published by Publisher Podium. We are currently looking for international publishers.
Our latest research (with Hannes Rusch) on war heroes and sexual selection was broadly covered in the international media.
Max Wildschut and I recently wrote an article for Management Team on why many leadership development programs fail. This is part of our monthly column in Management Team, titled "de Natuurlijke Leider."
Here is the chapter on the Evolution of Status and Hierarchy that I wrote with VU colleague Josh Tybur for the Buss' New Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (including a status evolutionary game model). Comments on this chapter are welcome!
I spent part of the summer of 2014 at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business school where I developed some fruitful collaborations with colleagues there to study the evolutionary and biological roots of organizational behaviors, including leadership.
In May 2014 I received the Juda Groen Prize from the Dutch Interdisciplinary Research Association (SIGO) for my evolutionary psychology research. I will spend the award money on research into the Organizational Zoo and Tribal Brain projects at the VU.
In the media
A recent interview on Dutch Radio 1 on our new study on leadership across various mammallian societies.
Recently we publsihed a book on the psychology of social dilemmas with Oxford University Press. (There is also a paperback version available now).
Our latest book "Gezag: De wetenschap van macht, gezag en leiderschap"is published with Arbeiderspers/Bruna. I wrote this with organizational psychologist Max Wildschut.
brein en integriteit
Brein en integriteit: Over de psychologie van macht en gezag (2015).
Lezing op de Dag van Integriteit.
Stone Age Leadership
Van Vugt, M. (2013). Stone Age Leadership. Invited Presentation at Business Leader Meetings, Lederne, Denmark (Copenhagen, Aarhus), December 2013.
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).