Daniel Sznycer



Postdoctoral Researcher

Department of Psychology, Arizona State University

Human Generosity Project

Center for Evolutionary Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara


My Google Scholar page


Postdoctoral training

Arizona State University, 2016 - present, Department of Psychology


University of California, Santa Barbara, 2011 - 2016, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences



University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010, Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Principal advisor: John Tooby (Department of Anthropology); co-advisor: Leda Cosmides (Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences)

Dissertation Title: Cognitive adaptations for calibrating welfare tradeoff motivations, with special reference to the emotion of shame



Universidad de Buenos AiresArgentina, 2002, Anthropology


Research focus


I am an evolutionary psychologist conducting research on the psychology of sociality. I combine methods, theories, and concepts drawn from the cognitive sciences and evolutionary biology to explore and map the evolved design of social emotions and their underlying motivational systems. I have multiple lines of cross-cultural evidence on shame, pride, compassion, and envy, and their roles in altruism, cooperation, social exclusion, and conflict. I am also working to map the system that regulates how much weight one individual places on the welfare of another. I conduct research on how these emotions and motivations regulate political and moral attitudes, and how they shape communication. The methods I use include experimental economic games, decision-making tasks, priming methods, cross-cultural and ethnographic data collection, large-scale representative surveys, and anthropometry.




Sznycer, D., Lopez Seal, M. F., Sell, A., Lim, J., Porat, R., Shalvi, S., Halperin, E., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (In press). Support for redistribution is shaped by compassion, envy, and self-interest, but not a taste for fairnessProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sell, A., Sznycer, D., Al-Shawaf, L., Lim, J., Krauss, A., Feldman, A., Rascanu, R., Sugiyama, L., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2017). The grammar of anger: Mapping the computational architecture of a recalibrational emotionCognition, 168, 110–128. │ Supplemental Information

Sznycer, D., Al-Shawaf, L., Bereby-Meyer, Y., Curry, O. S., De Smet, D., Ermer, E., Kim, S., Kim, S., Li, N. P., Lopez Seal, M. F., McClung, J., O, J., Ohtsubo, Y., Quillien, T., Schaub, M., Sell, A., van Leeuwen, F., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2017). Cross-cultural regularities in the cognitive architecture of prideProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(8), 1874–1879. │ Supplemental Information

Sznycer, D., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2017). Adaptationism carves emotions at their functional joints. Invited commentary in Psychological Inquiry, 28(1), 56–62

Sell, A., Sznycer, D., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Krauss, A., Nisu, S., Ceapa, C., & Petersen, M. B. (2017). Physically strong men are more militant: A test across four countries. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(3), 334–340. │ Supplemental Information

Sznycer, D., De Smet, D., Billingsley, J., & Lieberman, D. (2016). Coresidence duration and cues of maternal investment regulate sibling altruism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.Supplemental Information

Sznycer, D., Tooby, J., Cosmides, L., Porat, R., Shalvi, S., & Halperin, E. (2016). Shame closely tracks the threat of devaluation by others, even across cultures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(10), 2625-2630.Supplemental Information

Sznycer, D., Schniter, E., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2015). Regulatory adaptations for delivering information: the case of confessionEvolution and Human Behavior, 36(1), 44-51. │ Supplemental Information

Petersen, M. B*, Sznycer, D.*, Sell, A., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2013). The ancestral logic of politics: Upper body strength regulates men's assertion of self-interest over economic redistribution. Psychological Science, 24(7), 1098-1103.
* indicates joint first authorship

Schniter, E., Sheremeta, R. M., & Sznycer, D. (2012). Building and rebuilding trust with promises and apologies. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 94, 242-256.

Sznycer, D., Takemura, K., Delton, A. W., Sato, K., Robertson, T., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (2012). Cross-cultural differences and similarities in proneness to shame: An adaptationist and ecological approachEvolutionary Psychology, 10(2), 352-370. │ Supplemental Information

Petersen, M.B., Sznycer, D., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2012). Who Deserves Help? Evolutionary Psychology, Social Emotions, and Public Opinion about Welfare. Political Psychology, 33 (3), 395-418.

Sznycer, D., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2011). Evolutionary psychology. In P. C. Hogan (Ed.) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sell, A., Bryant, G., Cosmides, L. Tooby, J., Sznycer, D., von Rueden, C., Krauss, A., & Gurven, M. (2010) Adaptations in humans for assessing physical strength from the voice, Proceedings of the Royal Society London, (Biological Sciences), 277, 3509-3518.

Sell, A., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Sznycer, D., von Rueden, C., & Gurven, M. (2009). Human adaptations for the visual assessment of strength and fighting ability from the body and face. Proceedings of the Royal Society London (Biological Sciences), 276, 575-584.

Tooby, J., Cosmides, L., Sell, A., Lieberman, D. & Sznycer, D.  (2008). Internal regulatory variables and the design of human motivation: A computational and evolutionary approach In Andrew J. Elliot (Ed.) Handbook of approach and avoidance motivation.  pp. 251-271. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.