FACULTY

Jean-Baptiste André  (Group Leader)

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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.

Coralie Chevallier (Group Leader)

CHEVALLIER
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.

Nicolas Baumard

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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

Pierre Jacob

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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.

Hugo Mercier

MERCIER
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.

Olivier Morin

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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.

 

ASSOCIATE FACULTY

Dan Sperber

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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.

Lou Safra

SAFRA
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

Pierre Jacquet

JACQUET

I am a cognitive neuroscientist interested in explaining social cognition, and in particular conformism, using evolutionary lense. My project in the Evolution and Social Cognition aims at using life-history theory to study how risk-taking explains inter-individual variability in social learning.

Mauricio Dias Martins

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Medical Doctor with a PhD on the Evolution of Language. Previously worked as a neuroscientist investigating the neural bases underlying the representation of hierarchies.

Currently, I focus on the links between human psychology and social change. Like in language, the cultural variation of norms masks underlying similarities. These similarities, akin to a ‘grammar of society’, might result from biological and psychological constraints which limit moral, social and political variation.

In the current project, we text-mine fiction works, from different historical periods and countries, to map signatures of psychological states. We hypothesize that dominant psychological states in fiction might predict historical movements.

Valentin Thouzeau

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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 modelling and linguistic and genetic data sampling on the field.

 

PHD STUDENTS

Rita Abdel Sater

RITA

I am interested in using nudges and behavioural approaches more generally to promote sustainable behaviour and cooperative behaviour in Paris. I'm interested in applying both economics and psychology to produce more efficient public policies. 

Paul Ecoffet

PAUL
I'm interested in the evolution of cooperation. I am using evolutionary robotics as a modelling and simulation tool in order to introduce a more realistic genotype to phenotype mapping.

Sacha Altay

SACHA

Fascinated by apparently irrational beliefs and behaviors, I study the cognitive mechanisms underlying information transmission and evaluation. I try to predict what type of information is more likely to be accepted, transmitted, and memorized. Additionally, I’m working on new techniques of counter-argumentation to change people’s minds efficiently. 

Léonard Guillou

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I am interested in understanding evolutionary bases of human social behaviors. More specifically I study phenotypic plasticity in behaviors. My PhD is about studying social trust across time, space and between individuals.

Niels Lettinga

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I am trained in social and evolutionary psychology. Therefore, I am interested in explaining social phenomena from an evolutionary perspective. I am particularly interested in human cooperation, morality and mismatch theory. Currently I am using life-history theory to explain human variability in cooperative behavior.

Julien Lie

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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

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I am interested in understanding the determinants of consumption and in particular materialism. Are individuals who are exposed to harshness, unpredictability or inequality as children more likely to have materialistic values later in life? If we want people to reduce their consumption for environmental reasons, it is useful to understand what are factors of consumerism.

Léo Fitouchi

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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.

Aurore Grandin

AURORE

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.

Edgar Dubourg

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I am interested in explaining the psychological mechanisms underlying the cultural evolution of fictions. I am currently working on the cognitive factors of attraction for imaginary worlds. I am also interested in the evolutionary origin of the production and consumption of fictions. In particular, I focus on the social benefits of the consumption of fictions.

Valentin Weber

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Within evolutionary psychology and social cognition, I am interested in a variety of topics, including the evolutionary origins and classifications of sharing information, social signalling, and social emotions. My previous projects have investigated the process model of ego depletion and biases in legal decision making.

 

MASTER STUDENTS

Laudine Carbuccia

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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.

Mathilde Mus

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I am interested in the cognitive and evolutionary mechanisms underlying the perception and acceptability of public policies, and of economic concepts more generally. This year I will be working with Coralie Chevallier and Hugo Mercier on cognitive factors playing a role in the acceptability of carbon pricing. 

Alicia Herrera-Masurel

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Interested in the underlying principles that frame the construction of rationality, I study the gap between scientific and non-scientific argumentations on technical topics. I’ll be specifically working on rationality towards nuclear energy, under the direction of Hugo Mercier. The aim of this research is to understand what frames (economical, sanitary, environmental…) are the more decisive in shaping public opinions on nuclear energy, and assess the role of disgust mechanisms in the elaboration of opinions on this topic.

Amine Sijilmassi

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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.

Bence Csaba Farkas

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I graduated with a degree in psychology in Budapest. Now I am working towards a master's degree in cognitive science at the ENS. I am currently doing research under the supervision of Pierre Jacquet and Valentin Wyart, on understanding the psychological, behavioural and neural changes that result from experiencing adverse childhood environments. In addition, I am also interested in a wider array of topics in cognitive neuroscience, including implicit learning processes and the computational psychiatry of frontostriatal disorders, like Tourette's Syndrome or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Jeanne Bollée

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I was trained in economics and sociology. Now in M1 I'm interested both in studying social and cultural phenomena through evolutionary psychology and applying it to public policies. I'll be working with Valentin Thouzeau, Alejandrina Cristia and Coralie Chevallier on sex ratio and parental investment variations according to parental condition (Trivers-Willard hypothesis) through a meta-analysis.

 

RESEARCH ENGINEERS

Anne-Sophie Hacquin

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I work as a Research Engineer with Hugo Mercier and Sacha Altay on information/misinformation transmission and evaluation. I am involved in several projects, from fake news diffusion to the evaluation of trials’ arguments.

Charles de Dampierre

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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.

 

ALUMNI

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