Dr Shakti Lamba
Royal Society University Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Human Behavioural Ecology
Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier Building, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK
I study the evolution of sociality and culture in humans. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms and processes that lead to the evolution of cooperation, and in particular, the role of demographic patterns and cultural transmission. Since 2007 I have been working with populations of the Pahari Korwa, a small-scale, patrilineal forager-horticulturist society in central India and since 2012 I have been working with populations of the Khasi, a small-scale matrilineal horticulturist society in north-east India. My methods combine behavioural data collected via economic experiments as well as more naturalistic measures of behaviour with demographic, ecological and social data on individuals and populations.
2010 PhD in Biological Anthropology, University College London, UK
2004 MSc in Biology, University of Oxford, UK
2003 BSc (Honours) in Zoology, University of Delhi, India
2017-2022 Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Exeter, UK
2014-2017 ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow, University of Exeter, UK
2015-present Senior Lecturer in Human Behavioural Ecology, University of Exeter, UK
2012-2015 Lecturer in Human Behavioural Ecology, University of Exeter, UK
Sept '12-Dec '12 Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg Zu Berlin, Institute for Advanced Study, Germany
2011-2012 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK
2006-2010 PhD at Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK
2004-2006 Research Assistant, Insect Behaviour Lab, Indian Institute of Science, India
Research group links
1. The evolution of cooperation in humans
Cooperation, defined in the evolutionary sciences as behaviour that benefits others at a cost to the actor, is a cornerstone of human social organization. The degree and scale of cooperation varies considerably across populations and many authors have attributed this variation to cultural differences. However, it remains unclear what drives this cultural variation. A substantial body of theory in evolutionary biology predicts that demographic characteristics of populations, such as their size and patterns of migration, may be important drivers of cooperation and competition. But for the most part these theoretical ideas remain empirically untested in human populations. Much of my research focuses on testing these models in real-world populations in order to investigate whether demographic influences on cooperation and competition explain the cultural variation observed across populations. My previous work has demonstrated that levels of cooperation can vary even on small scales across populations of the same cultural group. This project evaluates whether key evolutionary theories explain real-world patterns of human cooperation by constructing empirical tests that combine behavioural, demographic and social data via large-scale field studies.
Since 2007 I have been working with populations of the Pahari Korwa, a small-scale, forager-horticultural society in Chhattissgarh, India. Heavily reliant on gathered forest products, which are a primary source of food and income, the Pahari Korwa also practice agriculture on small tracts of land. These economic resources are supplemented by opportunistic hunting, fishing and wage labor. Pahari Korwa populations present an excellent model system for this study: a set of real-world uniethnic metapopulations of the same endogamous cultural group, with distinct population boundaries and considerable demographic and ecological variation across them.
2. The diffusion of innovations
(collaborator: Dr. Alexandra Alvergne)
A major debate in the social sciences concerns the extent to which individuals adopt innovations based on their own assessment of the utility of a trait or on the imitation of others. While the first strategy may be based on more accurate information, the cognitive expense associated with the latter is potentially lower. Recent evolutionary models of cultural change have considered the trade-off between accuracy and expense to predict the conditions under which different adoption strategies should be used; yet, to date, they remain largely untested. This project addresses this deficit by examining the processes underlying the uptake of innovations in two Indian societies: the Pahari Korwa (forager-horticulturists) and the Khasi (swidden-agriculturists).
3. The evolution of self deception
(collaborator: Dr. Vivek Nityananda)
Robert Trivers proposed that self deception could have evolved to facilitate the deception of others if it eliminates signals (e.g. stress) that reveal deception. We are developing an empirical research programme testing this idea in humans and other species.
- 2014 - 2017 ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship
- 2013 The Royal Society Research Grant
- 2013 The British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (with Dr. Alexandra Alvergne)
- 2012 University College London Graduate School Research Grant (with Dr. Alexandra Alvergne)
- 2011 Centre for Ecology and Evolution Research Grant (with Dr. Vivek Nityananda)
- 2007 Cogito Foundation Research Grant (with Prof. Ruth Mace)
- 2007 University College London Graduate School Research Grant
- 2007 Parkes Foundation Small Grant
- 2006-2009 Cogito Foundation PhD studentship
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
2013 – present Member of the Scientific Committee for the College for Life Sciences, Wissenschaftskolleg Zu Berlin, Institute for Advanced Study, Germany. The committee is responsible for selecting early career researchers who are offered fellowships at the kolleg on an annual basis.
2013 - 2014 Member of the Athena Swan self-assessment team for the College for Life and Environmental Sciences Cornwall, University of Exeter.
2011 – 2013 Steering Committee Member and Secretary of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association; society for researchers doing human evolutionary research.
2009-2010 Treasurer of the London Evolutionary Research Network; society for post-graduate students engaged in evolutionary research.
Reviewer for the folllowing journals:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Evolution, Ethology, Animal Behaviour, Acta Ethlogica, Evolution and Human Behavior, Human Nature, Plos One, Evolutionary Psychology, Swiss Journal of Psychology.
I have given invited seminars at the following institutions:
Department of Anthropology, Durham University (UK); Treasury Analytical Groups HM Revenue and Customs (UK); Department of Psychology, University of Exeter (UK); Workshop at Wissenschaftskolleg Zu Berlin (Germany); Department of Anthropology, University of Bristol (UK); Studienkolleg zu Berlin (Germany); Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (Germany); Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (Germany); Department of Ecology and Evolution, École Normale Supérieure (France); Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri (USA); Workshop on ““Modeling social complexity” at National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (USA); Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (The Netherlands); Workshop on “Applied Evolutionary Anthropology” at University of Bristol (UK); Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter (UK); School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London (UK).
I have presented research at the following international conferences:
Annual conferences of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference (in France, Japan, USA), Conference on “Bridging Economics and Evolutionary Biology” (Switzerland), Annual conferences of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association conference (in Germany and Poland), Conference of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology (Australia, USA), INCORE conference on “Cooperation: An interdisciplinary dialogue” (Hungary), European Science Foundation TECT- INCORE Summer School on cooperation research (France), Göttinger Freilandtage conference on primate behaviour (Germany).
- Module coordinator: Human Behavioural Ecology (BIO3135)
Information not currently available
Supervision / Group
- Rosa Bonifacii (Masters project student, 2013 - 14, co-supervised with Mike Cant and Angus Buckling)