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Daniel M.T. Fessler


Contact Information

Email    dfessler@anthro.ucla.edu
Office  390 Haines
Phone  310-794-9252
I am an evolutionary anthropologist whose principal focus is contemporary humans.

Please see my personal website for complete information on research, publications, and teaching, including course evaluations.

Combining anthropological, psychological, and biological theories and methods, I approach a variety of aspects of human behavior, experience, and health from an integrative perspective in which humans are viewed as both the products of complex evolutionary processes and the possessors of acquired cultural idea systems and behavioral patterns.

When colleagues are being polite, they refer to my research interests as “eclectic”. Labels applied to my work include evolutionary psychology, biological anthropology, and evolutionary medicine.

My research, itself an ever-evolving process, currently focuses on a number of domains, including: emotions; disease avoidance; morality; prosociality and cooperation; conflict, aggression, and risk-taking; cultural transmission; food and eating; and sex and reproduction.




Ph.D., University of California San Diego (1995)

Selected Publications

Gervais, M.M. and Fessler, D.M.T. (in press) On the deep structure of social affect: Attitudes, emotions, sentiments, and the case of “contempt”.  Behavioral and Brain Sciences (target article). PDF

Fessler, D.M.T. & Holbrook, C.  (2016) Synchronized behavior increases assessments of the formidability and cohesion of coalitions.Evolution & Human Behavior 37(6):502-509. PDF

Clint, E. and Fessler, D.M.T. (2016) Insurmountable heat: The evolution and persistence of defensive hyperthermia. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 91(1)25-46. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Barrett, H.C., Kanovsky, M., Stich, S., Holbrook, C., Henrich, J., Bolyanatz, A.H., Gervais, M.M., Gurven, M., Kushnick, G., Pisor, A.C., von Rueden, C., & Laurence, S. (2015) Moral parochialism and contextual contingency across seven societies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. LINK

Fessler, D.M.T., Pisor, A.C., and Navarrete, C.D. (2014) Negatively-biased credulity and the cultural evolution of beliefs. PLOS ONE 9(4), e95167. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Tiokhin, L.B., Holbrook, C., Gervais, M.M., and Snyder, J.K. (2014) Foundations of the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances conceptualized formidability. Evolution & Human Behavior 35(1):26-33. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., and Gervais, M.M. (2014) Men’s physical strength moderates conceptualizations of prospective foes in two disparate societies. Human Nature. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T. and Holbrook, C. (2013) Friends shrink foes: The presence of comrades decreases the envisioned physical formidability of an opponent. Psychological Science 24(5):797-802. PDF

Amir, D. and Fessler, D.M.T. (2013) Boots for Achilles: Progesterone's reduction of cholesterol is a second-order adaptation. Quarterly Review of Biology 88(2):97-116. PDF 


Evolutionary psychology, biological anthropology; emotions, cooperation, aggression, social control, risk taking, ingestive and reproductive behaviors, morality, cultural evolution; Indonesia

Graduate Students

  • Edward Clint (evolutionary medicine; he is stuck with me as Chair)
  • Theo Samore (emotions, interpersonal assessment; Clark Barrett Co-Chair)