Mark van Vugt


Phone: +31 (0) 20 5985323
Room: MF-C585

Personal webpage

For a complete list and fulltext access to my publications, see VU Metis or my personal website.

Selection of recent projects

Leadership, evolution and hormones

My main line of research is on the evolutionary origins, functions, and psychological processes underlying leadership and followership. In one project we look at the facial cues of leadership perception. For instance, when do individuals prefer to follow a dominant looking leader? In another project we look at the evolved function of charismatic leadership. For instance, why do charismatic leaders inspire followers and through which cognitive mechanisms do they exercise influence? In a third project we look at the role of testosterone and cortisol in predicting leadership behaviors. Finally, I am interested in the social memory of leaders versus followers.

Intergroup relations and the male warrior hypothesis

In another line of research I am looking at the evolutionary psychology of intergroup relations. Our research suggests that there is a gendered intergroup psychology, meaning that men and women differ in their evolved social psychologies for intergroup relations (due to different selection pressures operating on men and women in the past). For instance, why are men more aggressive towards outgroups than women -- the male warrior hypothesis? Do ingroup members respond differently to male and female outgroup members?

The evolutionary psychology of sustainability

I am working on a few projects regarding the psychology of the environment. In one line of research we are looking at the effectiveness of psychological interventions to foster sustainability such as kinship, reputations, and social norms. In another project we are looking at the effects of green schoolyards on children’s cognitive and social development.

Theoretical evolutionary psychology: Mismatch, multilevel selection, niche construction, sexual selection, costly signaling

This is largely a theoretical project in which I try to understand the importance of evolutionary theories such as sexual selection, multilevel selection, mismatch, and niche construction as explanatory frameworks for understanding how humans behave in groups. These concepts have great potential to understand key social questions such as how contraceptives influence mate choice, why groups are more competitive than individuals, why people behave unsustainably, and why leadership and governance programs fail in modern organizations.


I studied social and organizational psychology at the University of Groningen (1985-91), followed by a PhD in applied social psychology at the University of Maastricht (1991-96) during which I worked on research into environmental sustainability using models from social dilemma and game theory. After receiving my PhD, I was hired by the University of Southampton, UK, as a lecturer in psychology (1995-2004), followed by a professorship in 2004 at the University of Kent, UK (2004-9). Since 2009 I hold a professorship in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology at the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I have affiliate positions at the University of Oxford (Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology) and the University of Kent (Centre for the Study of Group Processes). My research has received funding from grant agencies such as NWO and ESRC, from charities such as Leverhulme, and from private partners such as LTP Business Psychologists.

Research interests

My particular interest and expertise lies in the fields of evolutionary psychology and social- organizational psychology. I am interested in how insights from evolutionary theory can explain group and organizational processes such as leadership and followership, status and power, altruism and cooperation, and intergroup conflict. Together with colleagues we are using a range of innovating methodologies from experimental psychology, social neuroscience, and behavioral economics to test evolutionary psychology hypotheses about human social behavior. I also have a keen interest in applied research – inspired by evolutionary theory -- to understand and tackle societal challenges regarding management and governance, economics and finance, health and poverty, charity, and environmental sustainability.


Mark van Vugt’s Personal website

Mark van Vugt on Google Scholar

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Mark van Vugt on Wikipedia

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Mark van Vugt on Volkskrant

Recent publications

B Jaeger & M van Vugt (2021) Psychological barriers to effective altruism: An evolutionary perspective. Current Opinion in Psychology
KM Kniffin, J Narayanan & M Van Vugt (2021) COVID-19 is a moderating variable with its own moderating factors. Industrial and Organizational Psychology 14 (1-2), 149-151
L Krabbendam, M van Vugt, P Conus, O Söderström, LA Empson & ... (2021) Understanding urbanicity: how interdisciplinary methods help to unravel the effects of the city on mental health. Psychological medicine 51 (7), 1099-11109
G Palomo-Vélez & M van Vugt (2021) The evolutionary psychology of climate change behaviors: Insights and applications. Current Opinion in Psychology
AP Buunk, P Dijkstra & M Van Vugt (2021) Applying social psychology: From problems to solutions. Sage98
G Palomo-Vélez, JM Tybur & M van Vugt (2021) Is green the new sexy? Romantic of conspicuous conservation. Journal of Environmental Psychology 73, 1015309
AJ Barends, RE de Vries & M van Vugt (2021) Construct and Predictive Validity of an Assessment Game to Measure Honesty–Humility. Assessment, 10731911209856121
H Rusch & M van Vugt (2021) Male Adaptations that Facilitate Success in War. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, 4671-4680
JE Smith, CR von Rueden, M Van Vugt, C Fichtel & PM Kappeler (2021) An evolutionary explanation for the female leadership paradox. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 468
KM Kniffin, J Narayanan, F Anseel, J Antonakis, SP Ashford, AB Bakker & ... (2021) COVID-19 and the workplace: Implications, issues, and insights for future research and action.. American Psychologist 76 (1), 63321
T Ji, JM Tybur & M van Vugt (2021) Gendered outgroup prejudice: An evolutionary threat management perspective on anti-immigrant bias. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 24 (1), 177-1922
OR Van Den Akker, MALM van Assen, M Van Vugt & JM Wicherts (2020) Sex differences in trust and trustworthiness: A meta-analysis of the trust game and the gift-exchange game. Journal of Economic Psychology, 10232910
NP Li, JC Yong & M Van Vugt (2020) Evolutionary psychology’s next challenge: Solving modern problems using a mismatch perspective.. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences 14 (4), 3626
P Wu, D Van der Linden, CS Dunkel, M van Vugt & Q Han (2020) Emerging leadership and the general factor of personality (GFP): A quasi-experimental test of an evolutionary prediction.. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences5
W Iredale, K Jenner, M Van Vugt & T Dempster (2020) Giving guys get the girls: Men appear more desirable to the opposite sex when displaying costly donations to the homeless. Social Sciences 9 (8), 141
W de Waal-Andrews & M van Vugt (2020) The triad model of follower needs: theory and review. Current opinion in psychology 33, 142-1475
M Van Vugt & CR von Rueden (2020) From genes to minds to cultures: Evolutionary approaches to leadership. The Leadership Quarterly 31 (2), 10140426
JE Smith & M van Vugt (2020) Leadership and Status in Mammalian Societies: Context Matters. Trends in cognitive sciences 24 (4), 263-2642
JE Smith, CA Ortiz, MT Buhbe & M van Vugt (2020) Obstacles and opportunities for female leadership in mammalian societies: A comparative perspective. The Leadership Quarterly 31 (2), 10126716
N Lehmann-Willenbrock, JA Allen & M van Vugt (2020) The Origins and Evolutionary Significance of Team Meetings in Organizations. Managing Meetings in Organizations

View full list of publications on Google Scholar