Rob Boyd

External Professor

Rob Boyd is Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. He received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of California at San Diego and a Ph.D. in ecology at U. C. Davis. He has taught at Duke and Emory Universities and UCLA. 

Much of Rob’s research focuses on incorporating cultural transmission into the Darwinian theory of evolution, and using the modified theory to understand why humans are such peculiar creatures. Unlike other organisms, humans acquire a rich body of information from others by teaching, imitation, and other forms of social learning, and this culturally transmitted information strongly influences human behavior. Culture is an essential part of the human adaptation, and as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion or thick enamel on our molars. His research is focused on the evolutionary psychology of the mechanisms that shape human culture, and how these mechanisms interact with population dynamic processes to shape human cultural variation. He has done much of this work in collaboration with Peter J. Richerson. This work is set out in two books, Culture and the Evolutionary Process and Not by Genes Alone,  and in a number of papers, many collected in a volume entitled The Origin and Evolution of Cultures.  

Rob has also published on the evolution of social behavior, especially on the evolution of cooperation in large groups of individuals who are not closely related.  The contingent strategies that permit cooperation in such settings give rise to nonlinear payoffs, and recently Rob has worked with Roberto Schonmann to develop new methods for understanding how relatedness and local competition interact in viscous populations when this is the case.  He also organized a project on cross-cultural behavioral experimentation using economic games, and implemented some of this work in collaboration with Joe Henrich at a field site in Fiji. Rob has also co-authored an introductory textbook in biological anthropology, How Humans Evolved, with his wife, Joan Silk.  He and Joan have two children and live in Phoenix. His hobbies are rock climbing and bicycling.