Richard McElreath

McElreath in the field

Position Title

Department of Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Center for Population Biology


Research Interests

I am an evolutionary ecologist who studies humans. My main interest is in how the evolution of fancy social learning in humans accounts for the unusual nature of human adaptation and extraordinary scale and variety of human societies. Humans are more widespread and successful than any other vertebrate. Simultaneously, humans are unlike any other animal in that we cooperate in very large groups of unrelated individuals. I and my colleagues use formal evolutionary models, experiments and ethnographic fieldwork to address these puzzles. I also have strong interests in general evolutionary ecology, especially the evolution of social behavior.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Animal Behavior
  • Population Biology

Specialties / Focus

  • Behavior, Physiology and Morphology
  • Evolutionary Ecology and Life History Strategies
  • Systematics and Comparative Biology

Field Sites

  • Tanzania


  • 2001 PhD Anthropology University of California, Los Angeles


See for an updated listing

Henrich, J., and R. McElreath. (2003). The evolution of cultural evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology, 12:123-135.

McElreath, R., T.H. Clutton-Brock, E. Fehr, D.M.T. Fessler, E.H. Hagen, P. Hammerstein, M. Kosfeld, M. Milinski, J. Silk, J. Tooby, and M.I. Wilson. (2003). The Role of Cognition and Emotion in Cooperation. In P. Hammerstein (ed.), The Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation.

Soltis, J., and R. McElreath. (2001). Can females gain additional paternal investment by mating with multiple males? A game theoretic approach. The American Naturalist 158(5):519-529.

McElreath, R. (2004). Social learning and the maintenance of cultural variation: An evolutionary model and data from East Africa. American Anthropologist 106(2):308-321.