Michael E. Price

Research interests: Evolutionary moral psychology. Anthropometric and other individual-level predictors of personality and moral beliefs. Business and organizational behaviour. Cooperation, free riding and punishment. The origins of beliefs about social inequality, sexual behaviour, and aggression.





PhD Opportunities



·         July 2014: My new paper with Stuart Brown, Amber Dukes, and Jinsheng Kang, ‘Bodily attractiveness and egalitarianism are negatively related in males’, has been accepted at Evolutionary Psychology. We used a 3D body scanner to show that male bodily attractiveness is negatively related to egalitarianism (composite of generosity in an economic game, preference for socialism over capitalism, and concern for welfare of group versus self). We also showed that women whose bodies are more attractive, and men whose bodies are more attractive and more formidable, are perceived by others to be less egalitarian. Results were broadly consistent with the theory that egalitarian attitudes are calibrated to physical condition.


·         July 2014: Our Archives of Sexual Behavior paper, ‘Female economic dependence and the morality of promiscuity’, has received significant recent media coverage (e.g. The Times, Telegraph, Slate, The Atlantic, NY Magazine). Some of these accounts have been reliable, but others have distorted our findings. For some relatively accurate and thorough accounts of this research please see this post by Rob Brooks at the Conversation or my own post at Psychology Today.


·         May 2014: Congratulations to Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington, who will be joining the Brunel Psychology Department in January 2015 as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. Jennifer was awarded this highly competitive three-year fellowship for her groundbreaking research project ‘Having little, having less: Toward a psychology of low socioeconomic status.’ Her collaborators at Brunel will include members of the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology


·         May 2014: My new paper with Nick Pound and Isabel Scott, ‘Female economic dependence and the morality of promiscuity’, has been accepted at Archives of Sexual Behavior. This paper suggests that in cultural environments in which women depend less economically on men, people tend to be less opposed morally to promiscuity. This result makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because when mothers have more financial independence, fatherly investment in children—and the paternity certainty that motivates such investment—become less crucial. Promiscuity undermines paternity certainty, but this is less of a problem when paternal investment is less important, and relaxed moral beliefs about promiscuity seem to reflect this reduced importance.


·         May 2014: My new paper with Mark Van Vugt, ‘The evolution of leader-follower reciprocity: The theory of service-for-prestige', has been accepted at Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. This paper represents the most extensive effort to date to reconcile leader-follower relations with standard biological approaches to cooperation. We suggest that leader-follower relations evolved in humans as an elaborated form of reciprocal altruism, in which leaders produce public goods for followers, and followers collectively generate fitness-enhancing prestige for leaders. 


·         Oct. 2013: I’m organizing an interview series at Evolution: This View of Life magazine, ‘Profiles in Evolutionary Moral Psychology’. The first interview is with Jonathan Haidt and can be viewed here.

·         July 2013: I'm now editor of the new morality section at Evolution: This View of Life magazine. My first post is titled ‘Why evolutionary science is the key to moral progress’.

·         Jan. 2013: I've joined the editorial board of the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.

·         Nov. 2012: Our paper, ‘Body shape preferences: Associations with rater body shape and sociosexuality’ has been accepted at PLOS ONE. We examined relationships between rater body shape preferences and characteristics (bodily attractiveness and sociosexuality) of the raters themselves. Our main findings were that men who are higher in sociosexuality and self-perceived attractiveness exhibit stronger preferences for females who are more attractive in terms of waist-hip ratio and thinness (volume-height index).

·         Sept. 2012: Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading thinkers on psychology and human nature, will speak at Brunel on 17 October 2012, as the first speaker in the 'The Evolution of Moral Cultures' seminar series at the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology. More information is here.

·         Nov. 2011: Over the next few weeks, I'll be giving two talks at business schools on evolutionary psychology and organizational behaviour: first at London Business School on 18th November (abstract here), then at Oxford's Said Business School on 5th December.

·         Oct. 2011: I've recently co-authored two book chapters on evolutionary psychology and organizational behaviour. In ‘The adaptationist theory of cooperation in groups’, Dominic Johnson and I show how organizations can benefit by applying an individual-level selectionist perspective on group cooperation. And in ‘The service-for-prestige theory of leader-follower relations’, Mark Van Vugt and I suggest that good leadership involves a voluntary exchange whereby the leader provides followers with expertise and social coordination services, and followers provide leaders with social prestige and the access to resources that prestige entails.

·         August 2011: Our paper, ‘Anthropometric correlates of human anger’, has been accepted at Evolution and Human Behavior. We found that young men who are more muscular, and women who perceive themselves as more attractive, experience more personal and political anger; these results essentially replicate a previous study (Sell, Tooby & Cosmides 2009). However we also found that muscularity-anger correlations are absent in men older than undergraduate age, and that in contrast to self-perceived attractiveness, physical measures of female attractiveness are unrelated to female anger.

·         June 2011: I'm now writing a blog for Psychology Today, 'From Darwin to Eternity'

·         March 2011: Our paper, ‘Muscularity and attractiveness as predictors of human egalitarianism’, has been published in Personality and Individual Differences. Results suggest that men with more muscular upper bodies and lower waist-chest ratios, and men and women who perceive themselves as more attractive, tend to be less in favour of social equality. One implication: people's views on equality are based on Stone Age criteria. We evolved in environments in which access to resources depended largely on fighting ability, but this is much less true in modern states.

·         March 2011: We're hosting a seminar by evolutionary anthropologist Richard Wrangham on 24 March 2011 on "Evolutionary effects of cooking: The impact of fire in human evolution" (abstract), as part of the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology's 2010-2011 International Seminar Series

·         August 2010: I'm working with the Financial Services Knowledge Transfer Network to organise a seminar, "What Evolutionary Psychology Can Teach Us About Human Behaviour in Financial Markets", to be held at the London Linnean Society on 21 Sept. 2010; click here for a description of talks and here for registration information

·         July 2010: I'm now writing a regular column, 'Natural Law', for the banking magazine Global Custodian. My first column, ‘Why people hate bankers’, was published in the summer 2010 issue, and my second, ‘Don't blame Darwin’, is in press

·         Jan. 2010: Our paper on the evolution of continuous reciprocity in groups has been accepted at Journal of Theoretical Biology (pdf here)

·         Jan. 2010: We're hosting a talk by evolutionary psychologist Martin Daly on 29 March 2010, as part of the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology's 2010-2011 International Seminar Series

·         Nov. 2009: I'm organizing a conference, 'Evolutionary Approaches to Disease and Health', to be held at Brunel on 19 March 2010, as part of the 'Darwin's Medicine' ESRC Research Seminar Series

·         Oct. 2009: Congratulations to Elinor Ostrom, my postdoctoral advisor from 2003-05 at Indiana University, for winning the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics

·         Oct. 2008: I was a guest on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, discussing human nature and the financial crisis; listen here (my segment begins about 2/3 through)

·         Sept. 2008: Our paper on fluctuating asymmetry and body shape has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (pdf here)

·         Sept. 2008: We have a new Evolutionary Psychology MSc programme