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UCSB Psychologist, Anthropologist to Give Faculty Research Lecture

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, UC Santa Barbara professors of psychology and anthropology, respectively, and co-directors of the campus’ Center for Evolutionary Psychology, will give UCSB’s 2012 Faculty Research Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 28, at 4:30 p.m. in the University Center’s Corwin Pavilion. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby. (Nike Cosmides photo / UCSB)
Leda Cosmides and John Tooby. (Nike Cosmides photo / UCSB)

Awarded annually, the Faculty Research Lectureship is considered the highest honor bestowed by the university faculty on one of its members. It was established in 1955, and Cosmides and Tooby share the 57th award.

In their talk, “Climbing Down Inside the Human Operating System: Exploring the Evolved Programs That Run Our Species,” Cosmides and Tooby will highlight some of their research into the interlocking designs of evolved programs specialized for cooperation, bargaining and altruism. They also will discuss the relevance of these to economics, anthropology and human life.

Credited with creating and shaping the modern framework for evolutionary psychology, Cosmides and Tooby offer an approach to cognition culture that is considered one of the most important new perspectives in the cognitive sciences in the past 50 years.

The field of evolutionary psychology weaves together evolutionary biology, cognitive science, human evolution, hunter-gatherer studies, neuroscience and psychology to discover the mechanisms of the human mind and brain. By understanding the adaptive problems our hunter-gatherer ancestors faced during their evolution, researchers can uncover the detailed functional designs of the reasoning systems, emotions, and motivations that evolution has produced.

A central feature of their respective careers is a sustained –– and, indeed, escalating –– rate of scientific productivity. Their work has received more than 20,000 citations, with more than 50 papers cited at least 50 times.

In addition, their research has appeared in top journals, including Nature, Science, the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Psychological Review, Psychological Bulletin, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Harvard Business Review.

Recipients of numerous honors and awards, they were jointly recognized as recipients of the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Award, and Cosmides was selected for a 2005 National Institutes of Health Directors’ Pioneer Award, an honor she shared with Tooby. Only 23 of these awards have ever been given, and Cosmides is the only behavioral scientist ever to receive one.

The award is reserved for those “willing and able to explore ideas that were considered risky at the inception,” and who are “truly visionary thinkers who are able to make those leaps and change the current paradigms of medical research.”

Tooby joined the Department of Anthropology at UCSB in 1990, and Cosmides joined the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in 1991. Both professors completed their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Harvard, and were fellows at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study before becoming members of the UCSB faculty.

Parking for the event will be available in Lot 22.

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