CHES Associates

CHES Associates

Matthew Gervais

Postdoctoral Fellow

Matt Gervais received his PhD in Biological Anthropology from UCLA in 2013, and a BS in Psychobiology, Philosophy, and Anthropology, with a certificate in Evolutionary Studies (EvoS), from Binghamton University in 2006. His research is concerned with the evolution of human social relationships and the psychological systems that support them, including the bases of uniquely human social networks. Within a broad comparative and evolutionary framework, Matt integrates theories and methods from cognitive anthropology, behavioral ecology, social psychology, and experimental economics to understand the interacting levels of influence on human social behavior.


Structures of Sentiment in Yasawa, Fiji

Matt is principally a field anthropologist, having conducted 20 months of fieldwork in villages on Yasawa Island, Fiji. This work has focused on 1) the structure of Yasawan affect concepts, 2) the interpersonal functions of affect in Yasawan relationships, and 3) the social-relational contexts of sharing, taking, and punishment in Yasawan villages. This work includes the development of novel economic games that integrate recipient identities and thereby tap the norms and sentiments that regulate enduring social relationships.

The Strategy of Psychopathy

Matt also conducts lab research in the US, focusing on subclinical psychopathy as a model of strategic social behavior. This work, in collaborating with Joseph Manson at UCLA, has documented strategic defection as a function of partner value among those high in primary subclinical psychopathy, as well as their tendencies toward conversational dominance in first-encounter sitations. Currently he is gathering data, with Heejung Kim at UCSB, on the role of psychopathy in moderating the effects of intranasally administered oxytocin on trust and reciprocity.

Phylogenetic Adaptationism and the Emotions

Matt also works towards integrating phylogeny and proximate biology into the adaptationist study of human emotions. He has published on the functions and phylogeny of laughter and humor, and more generally on a phylogenetic adaptationist approach to emotions, with Dan Fessler at UCLA. Currently he is preparing to publish a new conceptual framework for the study of contempt that is a rapprochement between evolutionary psychology and psychological anthropology.


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Gervais, M.M. (2014). Evolution after mirror neurons: Tapping the shared manifold through secondary adaptation. Commentary on Cook, R., Bird, G., Catmur, C., Press, C., &

Heyes, C. (2014). Mirror neurons: From origin to function. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37, 177-241. doi:10.1017/S0140525X13000903

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., & Gervais, M.M. (2014). Men’s physical strength moderates
conceptualizations of prospective foes in two disparate human societies. Human Nature.

Fessler, D.M.T., Tiokhin, L.B., Holbrook, C., Gervais, M.M., & Snyder, J.K. (2014). Foundations of the
Crazy Bastard hypothesis: Nonviolent risk-taking enhances conceptualized formidability.
Evolution and Human Behavior 35, 26-33.

Gervais, M.M., Kline, M., Ludmer, M., George, R., & Manson, J. (2013). The strategy of psychopathy:
Primary psychopathic traits predict defection on low-value relationships. Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biology 280. doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.2773.

Manson, J.H., Gervais, M.M., & Kline, M. (2013). Defectors cannot be detected from “small talk” with strangers. PLoS ONE 8, e82531. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082531.

Manson, J.H., Bryant, G.A., Gervais, M.M., & Kline, M. (2013). Convergence of speech rate in conversation predicts cooperation. Evolution and Human Behavior 34, 419-426.

Fessler, D.M.T. & Gervais, M.M. (2010). From whence the captains of our lives: Ultimate and phylogenetic perspectives on emotions in humans and other primates. In: P. Kappeler & J. Silk (Eds.). Mind the Gap: The Origins of Human Universals (pp 261-282). Springer.

Gervais, M.M. & Wilson, D. S. (2005). The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: A synthetic approach. Quarterly Review of Biology 80, 395-430.




Hylke de Jong

dejongTeaching Instructor, Anthropology


University of Bristol, UK: PhD Archaeology and Anthropology, 2013
Dissertation title: Subsistence plasticity: A strontium isotope perspective on subsistence through intra-tooth enamel and inter-site variation by LA-MC-ICPMS and TIMS
Supervisors: Dr. Alistair Pike, Prof. Dr. Chris Hawkesworth, FRS

Leiden University, the Netherlands: Doctoraal (MA equivalent) Archaeology Indian America; Pre-Columbian Caribbean, 2003.
Thesis title: Strontium isotope analysis (87Sr/86Sr) on enamel and bone from a sample (n=14) of the Pre-Columbian population of Anse à la Gourde, Guadeloupe: a test for matrilocality and a pilot study in provenancing individuals in the Caribbean.
Supervisors: Dr. Menno Hoogland, Prof. Dr. Corinne Hofman, Prof. Dr. Gareth Davies


My studies both at the MA level and at the PhD focused on 87Sr/86Sr analysis on human tissue, though I have looked at other isotopic systems (i.e. δ56Fe for perspectives on metabolism and hence behaviour), and other analytical substrates (e.g. laser ablation strontium in charred seeds, on 87Sr/86Sr variation in Pleistocene orangutan teeth scavenged by Sumatran porcupines, crocodilians). What sustains my curiosity in the application of isotopes to archaeology is how this form of analysis may uncover up to now uncharted aspects of human behaviour, opening new horizons to solve a variety of pertinent questions. Among these I am particularly interested in those concerning subsistence, metabolism and man’s adaptability to the demands of the environment.

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Cathryn Townsend

Research Associate in Anthropology


Cathryn Townsend received her MRes in Anthropology in 2009 and her PhD in Anthropology in 2015 from Goldsmiths College, the University of London in 2015. She conducted a dissertation called "The Emergence of Inequality in a Former Hunter-Gatherer Society: A Baka Case Study." Her supervisors are Dr. Jerome lewis and Prof. Dr. Charles Stewart and her examiners were Dr. Camilla Power and Prof. Dr. David Wengrow.

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