Robert Kurzban
Born (1969-09-29) September 29, 1969 (age 52)
Academic background
EducationBA, Cornell University, 1991; Ph.D, UCSB, 1998
ThesisThe Social Psychophysics of Cooperation in Groups (1998)
Doctoral advisorLeda Cosmides & John Tooby
Academic work
Sub-disciplineEvolutionary Psychology
InstitutionsUniversity of Pennsylvania
Notable worksWhy Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind
The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It

Robert Kurzban is a freelance writer and former psychology professor specializing in evolutionary psychology.

Early life and education

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Kurzban was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on September 29, 1969. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Cornell University in 1991. Interest in Disney productions throughout his youth led him to take a job at Euro Disney in 1992.

He entered graduate school in 1993 and completed a Ph.D. in psychology at UCSB in 1998. He continued his training with postdoctoral work in the department of anthropology at UCLA, and the division of humanities and social sciences at Caltech. He also spent two years at the Economic Science Laboratory of the University of Arizona studying with Nobel Laureate Vernon L. Smith.


Robert Kurzban was trained by two pioneers in the field of evolutionary psychology, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, and his research focuses on evolutionary approaches to understanding human social behavior. He takes an adaptationist view of human psychology, studying the adaptive function, or, survival value, in the adoption of traits by humans. His work is aimed at understanding the functions of psychological mechanisms occurring in human social life. He uses methods drawn from social psychology, cognitive psychology, and especially experimental economics.

His early work investigated the social category described as "race" and it was directed at a hypothesis being proposed at the time, that people "automatically" encode the race of people they observe. Kurzban argued that because humans evolved in a world in which they rarely, if ever, encountered people of significantly different physical appearance from themselves, it was unlikely that the human brain evolved with a mechanism to encode what is currently referred to as "race". A series of experiments [1] showed that with a relatively minor manipulation in the laboratory, the extent to which people categorized others by "race" could be reduced. He also has done research on cooperation, morality, and mate choice (including speed dating).

Evolutionary psychology has come under attack from a number of critics. Kurzban has been active in defending the discipline from prominent detractors and also has worked to clarify the principle of cognitive modularity, which plays an important role in the discipline.[2]

In 2009, he gave a plenary address at the annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Fullerton, California.

His first book, Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, was published by Princeton University Press in 2010. His second book The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It, co-authored with Jason Weeden, was published in 2014 also by Princeton University Press.

Robert Kurzban now works as a freelance author and writer.

Selected publications