Coralie Chevallier (Group Leader)
I am a behavioural scientist studying the evolutionary and cognitive determinants of social cognition. I have mainly focused on the way motivational factors affect people’s social cognition. More recently I have worked on the way stress, environmental harshness, and uncertainty impact a range of social and non-social decisions:
- prosociality and social trust
- political attitudes and religion
- health attitudes, fertility and parenting
The central hypothesis behind my work is that environmental and motivational factors alter individuals’ minds in significant ways and should be targeted upstream to improve people’s lives.
Hugo Mercier (Group Leader)
I am an evolutionary and cognitive psychologist working on the function and workings of reasoning. With Dan Sperber, we have developed the argumentative theory of reasoning, which offers a new function for human reasoning: to find and evaluate arguments so as to convince others and only be convinced when it is appropriate. I also study the cognitive mechanisms with which people evaluate communicated information.
I was trained as a theoretician in evolutionary biology, and I’m interested in understanding behavior, in particular human behavior, based on an evolutionary perspective. My work focuses on two major questions:
(1) Why is human cooperation universally constrained by the logic of fairness? To answer this question, I develop models in collaboration with Nicolas Baumard and Stéphane Debove. We show that, whereas pairwise reciprocity per se is undertermined (what economists call the folk theorem), the evolution of reciprocal cooperation becomes constrained by fairness principles when individuals can freely engage in a diverse range of social interactions, and choose among them.
(2) Why is reciprocal cooperation so rare among non humans but so frequent in humans? To answer this question, with the help of models, I show that reciprocal cooperation is not a regular form of adaptation that can evolve by natural selection. Rather its evolution, like the evolution of communication, requires the recycling of functions evolved intially for a different purpose. I’m interested in showing how this constraint explains both the rarity of reciprocal cooperation among non-humans, and the form that it takes in humans.
I am interested in using evolutionary and psychological approaches in the social sciences, in particular in economics.
More specifically, I use:
- Biological market theory to explain why moral judgments and cooperative behaviors are based on considerations of fairness;
- Life-history theory to explain behavioral variability across culture, history, social classes and developmental stages;
- Dual process theory to explain the content of human reflections and religious thinking (in particular on morality and gods);
- all of the above to explain why some public policies naturally work better
I am currently working on human social cognition, more precisely on the developmental puzzle about false-belief attribution in human childhood. Most preschoolers have been reliably shown to fail verbal false-belief tasks, but growing evidence based on non-verbal tests has also shown that preverbal infants expect an agent to act in accordance with the content of her (true or false) belief. I take the infant data at face value as evidence of false-belief attribution in human infancy and I propose a pragmatic explanation of the failure of most preschoolers on verbal false-belief tasks.
I joined the Institut Nicod in November 2019, as CNRS "chargé de recherche". Before that I lead the "Mint" (Minds & Traditions Research Group) at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. (The group continues its activities.) I study cultural transmission from a perspective that combines quantitative cultural history with cognitive science and cultural evolution. In How Traditions Live and Die (2016), I described how cultural transmission can come about through the action of psychological mechanisms that are indifferent to fidelity but sensitive to content. That same book sketched a research program calling for cognitive science hypotheses to be tested with data coming from quantitative cultural history. I have carried out this research program in several fields, publishing papers on historical changes in the legibility of written letters, on the dissemination of heraldic designs, or the long-term transmission of children's games, among other topics. The common thread running through all these studies is the question: How can human traditions be appealing enough to be passed through successive generations, without losing their distinctive features? One major force for cultural preservation is the development of graphic records: visual symbols that record information, allowing transmission to carry on even when it skips several generations. My latest work, done in large part in collaboration with the Mint research group, thus focuses on graphic communication. We study the evolution of visual symbols, from writing and pictographs to online multi-player games. In the future, I hope to answer some fundamental questions about the nature of writing and the reasons why it appeared only when and where it did.
I am a behavioural scientist with training in both psychology and anthropology. My work spans the biological, cognitive and social sciences. My current research projects are in one or more of the following areas:
I am also interested more broadly in explanations in the behavioural sciences; in interdisciplinary synthesis; and in open science. Where possible I argue for the application of what we can learn from research to public policy.
My personal web site is www.danielnettle.org.uk
Dan Sperber is a French social and cognitive scientist, formerly at the CNRS, currently at the Central European University. He has developed a naturalistic approach to culture, “cultural attraction theory.” With Deirdre Wilson, he has developed a cognitive approach to communication, "relevance theory". With Hugo Mercier, he has developed an evolutionary “interactionist” approach to human reason. He has also worked on social ontology, cognitive modularity, morality, epistemic vigilance, and cultural symbolism.
I am interested in the cognitive mechanisms underlying social and political behaviour, notably leader choice and cooperation. In particular, I adopt an ecological and evolutionary approach to better understand the inter-individual differences in these domains, across both space and time. To do so, I rely on behavioral data, social surveys, computational modeling and, more recently, cultural artifacts such as paintings and books.
POST DOCS AND ATER
My goal is to better understand the demographic history and the biological and linguistic evolutions of human and animal populations. I use various frequentist and bayesian statistical methods (Markov chain Monte Carlo, Approximate Bayesian Computation, Machine Learning algorithms), as well as computational modeling and linguistic and genetic data sampling on the field.
I've so far focused on exploring reputation management mechanisms in the domain of cooperation (prosocial choice and rule abidance) and their adaptedness to a partner choice ecology. I am interested in the myriad ways in which biological markets have shaped how we want to be seen, how we evaluate others, the beliefs we hold, and who we trust and why. In the current project, I will be working on the topic of intellectual humility.
Fascinated by the scale and extent of human sociality, I look at our social behaviors from an evolutionary perspective. In particular, my goal is to use costly signal theory to help explain certain altruistic conducts. To do this, I rely on computer simulations and mathematical modeling.
Mélusine Boon Falleur
I study how the nature of human cooperation can prevent us from adopting efficient solutions to climate change. I hope that by understanding the different cognitive mechanisms involved in cooperation, such as reputation management or fairness computation, we can design better environmental policies. I am also interested in studying how the availability of resources, either in the environment or through parental transfers, shape people's behavior and preferences.
I’m interested in the cognitive adaptations underlying the emergence of human social and moral norms. In particular, I am currently working on the cognitive and evolutionary roots of the cross-culturally recurrent intuitions about moral purity.
I study the socioeconomic, cognitive and evolutionary determinants of interest for environmental issues and motivation to engage in pro-environmental behaviour. I'm interested in the application of behavioural sciences to public policies, especially in the domain of sustainability.
I take an interdisciplinary evolutionary approach to the psychological foundations of fictions. I am interested in the ecological, cognitive, and behavioral drivers of the cultural evolution of fictions, focusing on how cognitive adaptations and adaptive plasticity impact both the universality and the variability of cultural preferences. More particularly, my research investigates the links between the biological evolution of exploratory preferences and the cultural evolution of innovative cultural productions, such as imaginary worlds.
I am interested in understanding citizens’ preferences towards environmental public policies. In particular, I study cognitive and evolutionary mechanisms underlying social acceptability of green policies such as carbon taxation, cap-and-trade systems and regulation standards.
Charles de Dampierre
I was mainly trained as an economist but I am deeply interested in understanding how evolutionary psychology helps explain people's behaviors when it comes to cooperation, economics and trust. Among other things, my interests go to China and Japan and I am very keen on technology.
Originally trained as a modern historian, I am now interested in studying the psychological mechanisms that underlie group formation, social categorization and political preferences. During my master's thesis, I will investigate how ethno-linguistic boundaries constrain group and coalitional formation, resulting in nationalistic political preferences.
After a transdisciplinary bachelor degree, I’m now interested both in developmental enigmas, as how do concepts emerge as well as in the application of cognitive sciences to public policies issues, especially when it comes to health and early childhood. This is why, after having worked on language acquisition and arithmetic acquisition, I am now working with Coralie Chevallier and Carlo Barone (Sciences Po) on reducing the impacts of inequalities through access to childcare during the early years of life. My work focus on understanding the cognitive barriers to childcare use within underprivileged communities.
Zoé Zhong Ying
I studied communication and media, working with qualitative and quantitative methods on cultural phenomenons. My primary fields of interests now lie in cultural evolution and cognitive science. In particular, my research topic is cognitive and computational approaches to the cultural evolution of ancient and modern Chinese functions. I am also interested in Fiction,Pop culture and related stuff.
Together with, and under the supervision of, Hugo Mercier, I try to understand why people trust in science. Trust in science can be a question of life and death, for example when it comes to vaccines during pandemics. We also try to understand why people are interested in science and, more broadly, what drives people to develop and propagate explanations about the world, including conspiracy theories, religions, and political ideologies.
PhD candidate at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and the Freie Universität in Berlin, I try to understand the growing social gradient in health behaviours from an evolutionary behavioural perspective. I seek to identify the environmental cues that drive individuals’ perceived control over their mortality risk, and how they adapt their health investment accordingly. Moreover, I’m interested in the public policy applications of behavioural science research, especially in the domain of health.
I am interested in cultural evolution in general and how we can use cultural material, as well as data from anthropology, to have a better understanding of how minds produce societies and culture. This year I will try to investigate why the interest for interiority varies in space and time using different fictional corpora.
Nicolas Beauvais - Master Student (M2) 2021-2022
Léonard Guillou - PhD Student 2019-2022
Rita Abdel Sater - PhD Student 2019-2022
Anne-Sophie Hacquin - Research engineer 2019-2021
Mauricio Martins - Post-doc 2019-2021
Paul Ecoffet - PhD Student 2018-2021
Sacha Altay - PhD Student 2018-2021
Niels Lettinga - PhD student 2018-2021
Pierre Jacquet - Post-doc 2017-2021
Alicia Herrera-Masurel - Master Student (M2) 2020-2021
Loïa Lamarque - Master Student (M2) 2019-2020
Lucien Dabadie - Master Student (M2) 2019-2020
Félix Geoffroy - PhD Student, 2015-2018
Hugo Mell - PhD Student, 2015-2018
Marc Pichot de La Marandais - Master Student (M2) 2017-2018
Christina Ioannou - PhD Student, 2014-2017
Perline Demange - M2 Student, 2016-2017
Stéphane Lambert - PhD Student 2013-2016
Martin Dockendorff - Master Student (M1) 2015-2016, now PhD Student in CEU
Mona Joly - Master Student (M1) 2015-2016
Chloé Svatek - Master Student (M1) 2015-2016
Charlélie Goldschmidt - Master Student (M1) 2015-2016
Mark Sheskin - Post-doc 2013-2015, now post doc at Yale University
Stéphane Debove - PhD Student 2012-2015
Raphaël Delage - Master Student (M2) 2014-2015
Céline Dusautois - Master Student (M2) 2014-2015
Judith Lenglet - Master Student (M2) 2014-2015, now President of Cog'Innov
Arnaud Poubland - Master Student (M1) 2014-2015
Lucien Castex - Master Student (M2) 2013-2014
Helena Miton - Master Student (M2) 2013-2014, now PhD student at the CEU in Budapest
Tristan Tissot - Master Student (M2) 2013-2014, now PhD Student in Montpellier University