What We Do

We ask questions that uncover the basis of human social intelligence.  Questions like: 

Click on the pictures to visit the research behind each of these questions.


The overarching question that drives our research is:

Where did our modern world come from? 

Many human capacities are readily found in other species (e.g., problem-solving, emotion recognition, hierarchy formation and social bonding).  However, the modern human world exhibits a scale of innovation and social flexibility that is matchless.  Only humans congregate in mass with would-be strangers over common interests (e.g., rock concerts, religious rites, sports events).  One species creates zoos in order to watch all the others.  What made that species us?

We think that part of the answer lies in our ability to re-purpose evolutionarily ancient mental abilities in new ways. This flexibility allows us to create ever-changing genres of art, invent and learn new technologies, and manage our unusually vast and fluid social networks. However, because we are using old tools, our modern world is not without interesting quirks. So far, we have shown how these quirks explain why dolls are creepy, why music moves us, and the particular ways we think about friendship.