Home / Research / Labs / Evolution, Ecology, and Social Behavior Lab (Dr. Neuberg)

Evolution, Ecology, and Social Behavior Lab (Dr. Neuberg)

Keywords: stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination; stigma; fundamental social motives; social cognition; religion and conflict; evolutionary approaches to social behavior; ecology and culture; life satisfaction; overweight/obesity; person perception; social exclusion

Lab Research Area:

Welcome to the Neuberg Lab! 

Here are a few of the questions we are currently exploring:

  • Why do stereotypes and prejudices exist? What forms do they take? Why, in particular, do people possess such strong stereotypes and prejudices based on age, sex, and race? Such stereotypes and prejudices can have profound implications for how individuals are viewed and for the opportunities they have. It’s often presumed that stereotypes and prejudices people are simple, but they are not. Our research has demonstrated that the stereotypes people use to understand others are often quite complex—more complex than can be accounted for by currently dominant theoretical approaches to stereotyping and prejudice. Understanding this nuance thus has important implications both for creating stronger models of stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination, and for reducing instances of inappropriate stereotyping and discrimination.
  • The environments in which people live can vary greatly—in terms of resource availability and predictability, the presence of disease-causing pathogens, dangerous people, sex ratio (the numbers of women versus men), etc. How do such physical and social-ecological factors shape cognitions, behaviors, culture, and health? 
  • How do social goals (e.g., to protect oneself from dangerous people or contagious illnesses, to find a romantic partner, to care for family and children) shape how we perceive and understand the world around us?
  • What is life satisfaction for? Why people frequently audit their life satisfaction? Does life satisfaction serve important functions or is it an end in itself? We take the approach that life satisfaction functions to indicate progress toward psychologically active and fundamentally important goals. From this perspective, life satisfaction is functionally calibrated to how well one is moving toward achieving success on fundamentally important goals, thereby providing useful information for, and potentially motivating, subsequent action.
  • People who experience discrimination or stigmatization are more likely to be overweight or obese, with health implications including hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Complementing existing approaches to obesity, and grounded in the fact that fat storage is an ancestral adaptation for mitigating against the threat of future caloric scarcity, we propose that people store excess fat when physical and social-ecological cues suggest that calories may not be available in the future (e.g., due to interpersonal or intergroup conflict). We are investigating a range of predictions, including that people who are stigmatized or targeted for discrimination store excess fat—especially if they perceive themselves as vulnerable due to having small, weak, and/or unstable social support networks.
  • People learn a great deal about one another through observation. But what do people do when they need to learn something about another person and that characteristic is not easily observable? How do we “test” people—change their situations to see how they behave—to discover if they have the characteristics we are interested in?

Our approach is an integrative one, pulling together theory and findings from social psychologybehavioral ecology, and evolutionary biology to explore fundamental questions of social cognition and behavior.

Interested in Joining Us?

CONDUCT RESEARCH AND EARN COURSE CREDIT!!

We seek motivated, conscientious, curious, and enthusiastic research assistants to help us investigate research questions like those above. Learn first-hand about research and gain valuable experience for graduate school and the job market. You will run studies and collect data, read the scientific research literature, and perform other project-related tasks while learning about a wide range of topics in social and evolutionary psychology.

In addition to research-related activities during the week, and participation in smaller project meetings, all undergraduate and graduate students working in the lab join Professor Neuberg every Friday afternoon for a two-hour research meeting. During this time, we review the week’s activities, generate new research ideas, design new studies, bring to the group hot-off-the-presses data from studies just completed, discuss new findings in social and evolutionary psychology, and/or relate our research to events in the broader world.

We encourage active participation by undergrads and grads alike—the livelier, the better. The vast majority of undergraduate students who work in this lab go on to graduate school—and some are now even running their own lab meetings as professors!

For additional information contact the Lab Manager Ahra Ko

Lab Director and Principal Investigator: Steven L. Neuberg, PhD, Foundation Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology

Professor Neuberg earned his undergraduate degree at Cornell University, his graduate degrees at Carnegie Mellon University, and had a NATO Fellowship year at the University of Waterloo, Canada. His research has been published in outlets such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Psychological Review, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Handbook of Social Psychology, and Perspectives on Psychological Science; has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, and Army Research Institute; and has received the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize and the Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize. He is the recipient of several ASU teaching honors, including the Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award and the CLAS Outstanding Teaching Award. Curriculum Vitae.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Michael Barlev, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology

Michael Barlev, ASU PhD candidate, Neuberg LabBarlev takes an adaptationist approach to his research, combining foundational insights from the theory of evolution by natural selection and the computational theory of mind. He studies social decision-making and topics at the intersection of ecology, cognition, and culture. He is interested in questions such as: How do we choose social partners? Do our minds contain semantic summaries of the value to us of our social partners? How do we decide how much of our welfare to sacrifice to benefit others? Does the quality of our familial and social relationships, or factors such as interpersonal or intergroup conflict, strategically calibrate our psychology and physiology (e.g., fat storage and eating and exercise behaviors)? How do we mentally represent religious concepts (e.g., disembodied beings such as gods and spirits) and what does this mean to how the mind builds evolutionarily new concepts broadly? Why are such religious concepts culturally ubiquitous and what does this mean to theories of cultural transmission? Barlev earned his PhD in Psychological & Brain Sciences and MA in Religious Studies from UC Santa Barbara, and a BS in Psychology and a BA in History from UC Davis.  Post-doc Mentor: Neuberg.

.

Doctoral Students

Cari Pick, Doctoral Student,  Department of Psychology
Pick takes an evolutionary approach to research on group dynamics and processes. For example, several of her main projects explore questions such as (1) How do we decide who to let into our groups? How do we find out if potential partners or new group members have characteristics we’re looking for? Why might hazing and other initiation rituals be so prevalent? (2) When do we excluded people from our groups? How do we warn people that they need to change their behavior or risk being excluded? Why might we let certain members stay in the group even if they are behaving in a way that would have gotten someone else excluded? and (3) What do we believe about people from other groups, how do we feel about them, and how do we behave towards them? How are these stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminatory behaviors related to one another? What might lead two individuals to have the same stereotypes but very different prejudices toward another group? Advisor: Neuberg.

.

Ahra Ko, Doctoral Student, Department of Psychology
Ko’s research focuses on the interplay between emotion, motivation, and social cognition. Her research explores (1) the function of life satisfaction, (2) the role of fundamental social motives, (3) how ecology interact with social cognition, and (4) the science of mating motives and mate value. From evolutionary functional approach, she has examined how life satisfaction is calibrated to how well one is moving toward achieving success on psychologically active, fundamentally important goals. She has also examined theoretical and empirical reasons why people prioritize social goals related to long-term familial bonds (i.e., maintaining a long-term/committed relationship, taking care of family) over mating goals, analyzing data from 27 countries. Ahra earned her B.A. and M.A. under Eunkook Mark Suh at Yonsei University, South Korea. Advisor: Neuberg.

Amanda Kirsch, Doctoral Student, Department of Psychology
Kirsch’s research interests fall under the umbrella of evolutionary psychology, and tend to relate to threat responses. Currently, she is interested in finding out why people laugh and what makes something funny, what are the functions and motivations of embarrassment, how does being at the bottom of a social hierarchy change behavior, and what are the drivers behind various taboos. Amanda earned her B.A. from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Advisor: Kenrick.

Lab alums: where are they now?

Former graduate students

  • Jaimie Krems, PhD, Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University
  • Keelah Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Hamilton College
  • Allison Varley,  PhD, Behavioral Research Consultant and Behavioral Solutions Specialist, Assistant Vice-President, Swiss Re
  • Oliver Sng, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California, Irvine
  • Gabrielle Filip-Crawford, PhD, Assistant Professor, Saint Catherine University
  • Rebecca Neel, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  • Jessica Li, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas
  • Angela Pirlott, PhD, Associate Professor, Saint Xavier University
  • Anna Berlin, PhD, User Experience Researcher, Microsoft (Avero Consulting)
  • Jenessa Shapiro, PhD, Associate Professor, UCLA (deceased)
  • Terri Asher Hardison, PhD, private enterprise
  • Cathy Cottrell, PhD, Associate Professor, New College of Florida
  • D. Vaughn Becker, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University Polytechnic campus
  • Jon Maner, PhD, Professor, Florida State University
  • Jeremy Biesanz, PhD, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia 
  • Dylan Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, SUNY-Stony Brook Medical School
  • T. Nicole Judice-Campbell, PhD, Associate Professor and Dean, University of Oklahoma
  • Jason T. Newsom, PhD, Professor, Portland State University

 Former undergraduate honors students/research assistants now in relevant fields: (alphabetical by last name)

  • Zach Airington (Doctoral student, Tulane University)
  • Beth Altringer (Ph.D., Cambridge University.; Director of Desirability Lab, Harvard University)
  • Gretchen Anderson (Research Analyst, American Association of Retired People)
  • Ayesha Boyce (Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Assistant Professor University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
  • Corey Cook (Ph.D., U. Florida; assistant prof., Pacific Lutheran University)
  • Christian Cornelius (M.D., University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson; Assistant Professor, University of Arizona College of Medicine)
  • Andrew Delton (Ph.D., University of California Santa Barbara; Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University)
  • Shelli Dubbs (Ph.D., University of Groningen; Lecturer)  
  • Maggie Evavold (J.D., William Mitchell College of Law; Associate Attorney at Gregerson, Rosow, Johnson, & Nilan Ltd.)
  • Laura Hanish (Ph.D., University of Illinois, Chicago; Professor, Arizona State University)
  • Thomas Hanson (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh; HR Director at Arntzen de Besche, Norway)
  • Jonna Hoffman (J.D., University of California, Los Angeles; her honors thesis was published with related research in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; Attorney)
  • Catherine Kalina, Make A Wish Foundation
  • Christopher Jenkins (Ph.D., University of New Mexico; Data Scientist at Instagram)
  • Jennifer Jordan (Ph.D., Yale University; Professor, IMD Business School)
  • Andreana Kenrick (Ph.D. Princeton University; Facebook)
  • Zoe Kinias (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara; Associate Professor, INSEAD Singapore)
  • Kody Manke (Ph.D., Stanford University; Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Madeline Mayer (MSW, University of Southern California; J.D., ASU; Public Defender, Phoenix, AZ)
  • Jay Meyers (Ph.D., University of Virginia; Vice President, J.D. Power)
  • Katherine Morse (M.A, George Mason; Department of Psychology award for best honors thesis; honors thesis was published in Personal Relationships; private sector)
  • Deborah Nahom (PhD, University of Washington; currently working in Scotland)
  • Paige Muellerleile (Ph.D., Syracuse U.; associate prof., Marshall University)
  • Gbolahan (Femi) Olanubi (NSF Predoctoral Fellow, PhD., University of California, Los Angeles; UX Researcher with Facebook)
  • Tatiana Orozco (Ph.D., University of Florida; Statistician, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Megan Ringel (Doctoral student, University of California, Irvine; Psychology)
  • Tess Robertson (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara; Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University)
  • Denise Sekaquaptewa (Ph.D., Ohio State University; Professor, University of Michigan)
  • Jessica Shropshire (Doctoral student, University of California, Los Angeles Psychology)
  • Arielle Silverman (Ph.D. University of Colorado—Boulder; Founder and Consultant, Disability Wisdom Consulting; Deputy Coordinator of Project RISE, National Federation of the Blind of Virginia)
  • Kristopher Smith (PhD., University of Pennsylvania; Postdoctoral Fellow, The Social Behavioral Science Initiative)
  • Zak Tormala (Ph.D., Ohio State University.; Associate Professor, Stanford University)
  • Matthew Trujillo (Ph.D., Princeton University; Manager of Strategic Initiatives at the Advancement Project California)
  • Joshua Tybur (Ph.D., University of New Mexico; Associate Professor, Vrij Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands; Associate Editor at Evolution and Human Behavior)
  • Ruth Warner (Ph.D., University of Kansas; Associate Professor., St. Louis University)
  • Jonathan Weaver (Ph.D., University of South Florida; Assistant Professor., Michigan State University)

Select Publications

Below are a sample of recent publications from Dr. Neuberg's research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Neuberg's curriculum vitae. * = Students at time project began 

2019 and in press

Becker, D. V., & Neuberg, S. L. (2019).  Pushing archetypal representational systems further [response to commentaries], Psychological Inquiry, 30 103-109. 

Becker, D. V., & Neuberg, S. L. (2019). Archetypes reconsidered as emergent outcomes of cognitive complexity and evolved motivational systems [target article], Psychological Inquiry, 30, 59-75.

Sundie, J. M, Beal, D. J, Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, D. T. (2019). Moving beyond unwise replication practices: The case of romantic motivation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148, e1. 

*Williams, K. E. G., *Votruba, A. M., Neuberg, S. L., & Saks, M. J. (2019). Capital and punishment: Resource scarcity increases endorsement of the death penalty. Evolution and Human Behavior, 40, 65-73. 

Cohen, A. B., & Neuberg, S. L. (2019).  Religious cultures and religious conflict.  In S. Kitayama & D. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of cultural psychology (2nd ed., pp. 857-875).  New York:  Guilford.

 

2018

*Sng, O., Neuberg, S. L., Varnum, M. E. W., & Kenrick, D. T. (2018). The behavioral ecology of cultural psychological variation. Psychological Review, 125, 714-743 [Winner of the2019 Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize, Society for Personality and Social Psychology]

Kenrick, D.T., Cohen, A. B., Neuberg, Sl. L., & Cialdini, R. B. (2018). The science of anti-scientific thinking. Scientific American, 319, 36-41

 

2017

*Sng, O., Neuberg, S. L., Varnum, M. E. W., & Kenrick, D. T. (2017). The crowded life is a slow life: Population density and life history strategy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112, 736-754.

Schaller, M., Kenrick, D.T., Neel, B., & Neuberg, S. L. (2017). Evolution and human motivation: A fundamental motives framework. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11. Online only, DOI: 10.1111/spc3.12319.

Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, A. C. (2017). Discriminating ecologies: A life history approach to stigma and health. In B. Major, J. F. Dovidio, & B. G. Link (Eds.), Handbook of stigma, discrimination and health (pp. 125-145). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

 

2016

*Filip-Crawford, G., & Neuberg, S.L. (2016). Homosexuality and pro-gay ideology as pathogens? Implications of a disease-spread lay model for understanding anti-gay behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Review.[Winner of the 2017 Society of Personality and Social Psychology Student Publication Award]

*Krems, J.A., Dunbar, R., Neuberg, S. (2016). Something to talk about: Are conversation sizes constrained by mental modeling abilities? Evolution and Human Behavior.

*Krems, J.A., Neel, R., Neuberg, S.L., Puts, D.A., & Kenrick, D.T. (2016, April). Women selectively guard their (desirable) mates from ovulating women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(4), 551-573.

Neel, R., Kenrick, D.T., White, A. E., & Neuberg, S.L. (2016). Individual differences in fundamental social motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(6), 887-907.

Neuberg, S.L., & Schaller, M. (2016). An evolutionary threat-management approach to predudices. Current Opinion in Psychology7, 1-5.”

*Williams, K.E., *Sng, O., & Neuberg, S. L. (2016). Ecology-driven stereotypes override race stereotypes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,113(2), 310-315.  [Honorable Mention, Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues]

*Sng, O., *Williams, K. E. G., & Neuberg, S. L. (2016). Evolutionary approaches to stereotyping and prejudice. In C. Sibley & F. K. Barlow (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of the psychology of prejudice (pp. 21-46). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

 

2015
*Krems, J.A., *Filip-Crawford, G., & Neuberg, S.L., & Kenrick, D.T. (2015). Is she angry? (Sexually desirable) Women ‘see’ anger on female faces. Psychological Science, 26, 1655-1663.

 

2014

Neuberg, S.L., & Schaller, M. (2014). Evolutionary social cognition. M. Mikulincer & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), APA handbook of personality and social psychology (Vol1, Attitudes and social cognition, pp. 3 - 45, E. Borgida & J. A. Bargh [Assoc. Eds.])Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Neuberg, S.L., Warner, C.M., *Mistler, S.A., *Berlin, A., *Hill, E. D., *Johnson, J.D., *Filip-Crawford, G., Millsap, R.E., Thomas, G., Winkelman, M., Broome, B.J., Taylor, T.J., & Schober, J. (2014). Religion and intergroup conflict: Findings from the Global Group Relations Project. Psychological Science, 25, 198-206.

*Pirlott, A.G., & Neuberg, S.L. (2014). Sexual prejudice: Avoiding unwanted sexual interest? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 92-101.

 

2013

Neuberg, S. L., & *Sng, O. (2013). A life history theory of social perception: Stereotyping at the intersections of age, sex, and ecology (and race). Social Cognition, 31, 696–711.

*Kenrick, A. C., *Shapiro, J. R., & Neuberg, S. L. (2013). Do parental bonds break anti-fat stereotyping? Parental work-ethic ideology and disease concerns predict bias against heavy-weight children. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 723-731.

*Neel, R., *Neufeld, S.L., & Neuberg, S.L. (2013). Would an obese person whistle Vivaldi? Targets of prejudice self-present to minimize the appearance of specific threats. Psychological Science, 24, 678-687.

 

2012

Schaller, M., & Neuberg, S.L. (2012). anger, disease, and the nature of prejudice(s). J. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 46, pp. 1 - 55). Burlington, VT: Academic Press. [Winner, Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues]

*Neel, R., Becker, D.V., Neuberg, S.L., & Kenrick, D.T. (2012). Who expressed what emotion? Men grab anger, women grab happiness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 583-586.

 

 

Congratulations!

August 2019: Congratulations to Drs. Oliver Sng, Steve Neuberg, Michael Varnum, and Doug Kenrick for winning the Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Award from SPSP for their article “The behavioral ecology of cultural psychological variation” in Psychological Review. You can read the award-winning paper here: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-17976-001.

August 2019: Amanda Kirsch joined the EESB Lab as a brand-new Doctoral Student. Amanda is hailing from the Evolutionary Psychology Lab at Florida State University where she was the lab manager. Good riddance to swampy Florida and welcome to the desert, Amanda!

Starting Fall 2019: Dr. Oliver Sng joined the faculty of University of California, Irvine as an Assistant Professor in their Department of Psychology.

July 2019: Congratulations to Ahra Ko, who along with a team including current lab members Cari Pick and Dr. Michael Barlev, and former lab member Dr. Jaimie Krems, published a paper entitled “Family matters: Rethinking the psychology of human social motives” in Perspectives on Psychological Science. The paper includes data from a global collaboration in 27 countries, led by ASU professors Michael Varnum and Doug Kenrick, on cultural differences and similarities in fundamental social motivations. You can read Ahra’s fascinating paper here: https://psyarxiv.com/u8h3x/ 

June 2019: Congratulations to Cari Pick for being elected as the Student Representative of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, a two,-year post.

May 2019: Along with team members Ann Taves (UCSB) and Michael Kinsella (CMU), Dr. Michael Barlev was awarded a $250,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation for a project titled “What is religious experience? Validation and testing of the inventory of non-ordinary experiences.”  You can find out more about this project here: https://www.templeton.org/news/what-counts-as-religious-experience.

Starting Fall 2018: Dr. Jaimie Krems begins as an Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University in the Department of Psychology

July, 2018: Congratulations to Dr. Michael Barlev for winning the New Investigator Award at the annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society for his talk titled “How the Mind Builds Evolutionarily New Concepts”! You can read the manuscript on which this talk was based here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-017-1421-6 

May 2018: Cari Pick has successfully defended her Master’s thesis, titled “Sidanians try to share their values with others: Threat or opportunity? It depends on your own vulnerabilities.” Congratulations, Cari! We aren’t sure what “Sidandians” are but we are proud of you nonetheless!

February 2018: Dr. Oliver Sng published a paper titled “The behavioral ecology of cultural psychological variation” in Psychological Review with Professors Steven Neuberg, Michael Varnum, and Doug Kenrick. You can read this paper here: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-17976-001

December 2017: Dr. Michael Barlev joined the EESB Lab as a brand new Postdoctoral Fellow after successfully defending his dissertation at the University of California, Santa Barbara entitled “How the Mind Builds Evolutionarily New Concepts”. Congratulations, Michael, and welcome to the lab!

August 2017: Welcome to Ahra Ko who joined the EESB Lab as a brand new doctoral student! Ahra is coming to us from the Happiness Lab at Yonsei University in South Korea where she completed her Master’s thesis entitled “Does physical attractiveness buy happiness? Women’s mating motivation and happiness”. You can read it here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s031-018-9717-z