Humans are a particularly odd ape. We live in colossal societies, worship supernatural beings and prune our body hair according to current fashions. Behind this oddity is our capacity for culture. As a researcher I am interested in how human culture evolves and the cognitive abilities that underlie this process.
I am currently based at the University of Auckland completing a PhD in cultural evolution supervised by Prof. Russell Gray and Dr. Quentin Atkinson. I have led a team of researchers building Pulotu, a quantitative database of supernatural beliefs and practices in Pacific cultures. By using phylogenetic methods and data from Pulotu I have recently tested the importance of supernatural punishment in the evolution of complex societies, as well as the function of ritualised human sacrifice. My current research continues to test theories about the evolution of religion and society using large cross-cultural datasets.