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

Mark van Vugt on Research Gate

Mark van Vugt on LinkedIn

Mark van Vugt on Wikipedia

Mark van Vugt on Psychology Today

Mark van Vugt on Volkskrant

Recent publications

MR Zoric, V Singh, M Zeller & KD Glusac (2019) Journal list menu. Navigation 32 (7)
PM Kappeler, C Fichtel, M van Vugt & JE Smith (2019) Female leadership: A transdisciplinary perspective. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
JEP Knapen, TV Pollet & M van Vugt (2019) When Better Seems Bigger: Perceived Performance of Adult Professional Football Players Is Positively Associated With Perceptions of Their Body Size. Evolutionary Psychology 17 (2), 1474704919841914
T Ji, JM Tybur & M van Vugt (2019) Generalized or Origin-Specific Out-Group Prejudice?: The Role of Temporary and Chronic Pathogen-Avoidance Motivation in Intergroup Relations. Evolutionary Psychology 17 (1), 14747049198268511
J Antonakis, GC Banks, N Bastardoz, MS Cole, DV Day, AH Eagly & ... (2019) The Leadership Quarterly: State of the journal. Leadership Quarterly 30 (1), 1-9
N Bastardoz & M Van Vugt (2019) The nature of followership: Evolutionary analysis and review. The Leadership Quarterly 30 (1), 81-953
D Asfar, MP Born, JK Oostrom & M van Vugt (2019) Psychological Individual Differences as Predictors of Refugees’ Local Language Proficiency. European Journal of Social Psychology
JE van Dijk-Wesselius, J Maas, D Hovinga, M van Vugt & AE van den Berg (2018) The impact of greening schoolyards on the appreciation, and physical, cognitive and social-emotional well-being of schoolchildren: A prospective intervention study. Landscape and urban planning 180, 15-261
JW van Prooijen & M Van Vugt (2018) Conspiracy theories: Evolved functions and psychological mechanisms. Perspectives on psychological science 13 (6), 770-7885
O Van den Akker, MALM van Assen & J Wicherts (2018) Sex Differences in Trust and Trustworthiness-A Meta-analysis of the Trust Game and the Gift-exchange Game. PsyArXiv
A Mashuri, E van Leeuwen & M van Vugt (2018) Remember your crimes: How an appeal to ingroup wrongdoings fosters reconciliation in separatist conflict. British Journal of Social Psychology 57 (4), 815-833
JE Smith, CA Ortiz, MT Buhbe & M van Vugt (2018) Obstacles and opportunities for female leadership in mammalian societies: A comparative perspective. The Leadership Quarterly3
B Calfano, B Calfano, B Calfano, E Abdelkader, D Abrams, M Wetherell & ... (2018) A Simple Theory of the Survey Response: Answering Questions Versus Revealing Preferences.. Muslims, Identity, and American Politics 29, 1-21
G Palomo-Vélez, JM Tybur & M van Vugt (2018) Unsustainable, unhealthy, or disgusting? Comparing different persuasive messages against meat consumption. Journal of Environmental Psychology 58, 63-71
FH Gerpott, N Lehmann-Willenbrock, JD Silvis & M Van Vugt (2018) In the eye of the beholder? An eye-tracking experiment on emergent leadership in team interactions. The Leadership Quarterly 29 (4), 523-53210
R Grotens, G van Dijk & M van Vugt (2018) Leadership Practices of Council Secretaries in Turbulent Times; A Case Study. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics 15 (1), 29-42
JEP Knapen, NM Blaker & M Van Vugt (2018) The Napoleon Complex: When Shorter Men Take More. Psychological science 29 (7), 1134-1144
A Grabo & M van Vugt (2018) Voting for a male warrior or female peacekeeper? Testing the evolutionary contingency hypothesis in the 2016 US presidential elections. Evolutionary Psychology 16 (2), 14747049187732671
K Alvarez, E van Leeuwen, E Montenegro‐Montenegro & M van Vugt (2018) Empowering the poor: A field study of the social psychological consequences of receiving autonomy or dependency aid in Panama. British Journal of Social Psychology 57 (2), 327-3453
L van der Meij, N Gubbels, J Schaveling, M Almela & M van Vugt (2018) Hair cortisol and work stress: Importance of workload and stress model (JDCS or ERI). Psychoneuroendocrinology 89, 78-853

View full list of publications on Google Scholar