Return of the Lost Evolutionary Psychology Interviews

Conversations with Cosmides, Hrdy, Chagnon, Pinker, E.O. Wilson, and others

Posted Jun 11, 2019

The field of evolutionary psychology is an amalgamation of ideas and discoveries from several diverse disciplines.  Barry Kuhle and Catherine Salmon conceived the idea of preserving the history of the field in videotaped interviews with several of the biologists, anthropologists, and psychologists who pioneered in bringing ideas from evolutionary biology to the modern study of human behavior.  They brought in David Lundberg Kenrick to do most of the filming, so the quality is a few notches above the usual homemade skype YouTube interview.    

In these interviews, several distinguished researchers talk about the experiences that led them to think about human behavior in evolutionary perspective. They are also hosted on the website of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES).  

Here are the links to each of the 14 videos:

Bobbi Low is a biologist at the University of Michigan and recipient of the most recent HBES distinguished career award.  Her work has ranged over a number of important topics and stands as a model of comparative thinking,  including research on animals ranging from marsupials and frogs to human beings

Bill Irons is an anthropologist at Northwestern University.  Also a model of an interdisciplinary scientist, he has conducted research on different species as well as different human societies. 

David Buss is a psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin.  When I originally described Buss along with a link to this interview (one of those that mysteriously disappeared), I mentioned that a glance on Google scholar showed Buss had been cited a notable 31,324 times.  I just glanced again, and that number has since doubled, to 66,491!

John Tooby is an anthropologist at UCSB and an all-around brilliant human being, whose profoundly influential work with Leda Cosmides I briefly discussed here.

Leda Cosmides is a psychologist at UCSB, and currently the president of HBES. Her work on modularity in human cognition has been truly important in changing the way we think about thinking. 

Martin Daly is a comparative psychologist at McMaster University. I was about to describe him as one of my intellectual heroes, but I realized I said that exact thing about him here a few years back (my opinion has only gotten stronger)

Mark Flinn is an anthropologist at Baylor University.  His influential work integrates theory and method from cultural anthropology, developmental psychology, behavioral endocrinology, family medicine, and human biology. 

Napoleon Chagnon is an anthropologist at the University of Missouri.  His classical research on the Yanomami of Brazil is perhaps the best known anthropological fieldwork ever done.

Randy Thornhill is a biologist at the University of New Mexico.  He became famous for his work on insect mating systems, before branching out to study topics linked to human psychology, including beauty, rape, and how cultural variations in ethnocentrism are linked to diseases.

Sarah Hrdy is a biologist, formerly of UC Davis, and an associate of the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard. She is perhaps best known for her work on infanticide in langurs, and her eminently readable and thought-provoking book Mother Nature

Steven Pinker is a psychologist at Harvard University.  I have discussed his brilliant books several times here, and if you have ever visited a bookstore, you likely know who he is. 

David Sloan Wilson is a professor of both biology and anthropology at SUNY Binghampton.  He has written a number of well-known books, including Darwin's Cathedral, which applies an evolutionary perspective to religion

E.O. Wilson is a biologist at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, author of many influential books, including the classic Sociobiology, as well as a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on ants with Bert Holldoebler.

Doug Kenrick is a psychologist at Arizona State University.  He has managed to have a really grand time hanging out with people like those listed above, and doing research and writing on whatever topics interested him.  This somehow resulted in his being included in a series of interviews with a lot of truly great scientists. 

I was just watching (and in a couple of cases rewatching) these videos, and I found it illuminating to learn how these distinguished scientists all came to the study of human behavior from such very different backgrounds and perspectives.  Hence, I would recommend the videos to anyone interested in the science of human behavior, regardless of their disciplinary background.  I don’t think it is too grand a claim to say that this group of researchers has radically changed how literate people now think about human nature.