The Language, Cognition and Culture Lab

The Language, Cognition and Culture Lab uses lab- and field-based experiments, computational models and evolutionary theory to understand how human cognition and culture evolve and interact to shape three fundamental elements of our social lives – politics, religion and language.

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Current Lab Members

Scott Claessens

Scott Claessens (Post-doctoral researcher, University of Auckland, 2021-present)
Research project: ‘Deep cultural ancestry and the fortunes of nation states’



Thanos Kyritsis (PhD student, University of Auckland, 2018-present)
Research project: ‘Culture, connections, and the fortunes of nations’



Kyle Fischer (PhD student, University of Auckland, 2018-present)
Research project: ‘Competition, cooperation, and conformity: The evolutionary and psychological foundations of political ideology’



Guy Lavender Forsyth (PhD student, University of Auckland, 2019-present)
Research project: ‘Political foundations: ideology in small scale society’



Former Post-doctoral Researchers


Oliver Sheehan (Post-doctoral researcher, University of Auckland, 2019-2022)
Research project: ‘The cultural evolution of complex societies’



Henry Dixson (2015-2018)
Research project: ‘Prosocial values in Vanuatu’



Luke Maurits (2015-2017)
Research project: ‘Bayesian phylogenetic methods and the evolution of language’

Joseph Heled (2015-2017)
Research project: Bayesian phylogenetic methods for language supertrees


Former PhD students

Scott Claessens

Scott Claessens (PhD 2018-2021)
Thesis title: ‘Testing the dual evolutionary foundations of political ideology using incentivised behavioural tasks’



Oliver Sheehan (PhD 2015-2019)
Thesis title: ‘A cultural phylogenetic approach to the evolution of complex societies’



Severi Luoto (PhD 2015-2020)
Thesis title: ‘Sexual dimorphism in language, and the gender shift hypothesis of homosexuality’



Tom Vardy (PhD 2014-2019)
Thesis title: ‘A test of functional theories of religion in a non-Western sample’



Joseph Watts (PhD 2013-2017)
Thesis title: ‘The cultural evolution of religion – a phylogenetic approach’



Jenny Long (PhD 2011-2015)
Thesis title: ‘Pro-environmental behaviours in a high-school social network’



Former MSc students

Georgia Birnie (MSc 2014-2015)
Thesis title: ‘The role of threat and conformity in Moral Judgments’

Matt Troutwine (MSc 2014-2015)
Thesis title: ‘Modern social networks, prosocial behaviour and the evolution of cooperation’

Sam Passmore (MSc 2013-2014)
Thesis title: ‘Do cultural ancestry and diffusion impact human development? New statistical approaches to tackling Galton’s problem’