Max Burton-Chellew

Post-doctoral researcher for Prof. Stuart West

Magdalen College & New College


Research Interests

I am interested in the evolution of social interactions. This has led me into empirical research on a range of social evolution questions in organisms as diverse as parasitic wasps to humans. Recently I have been using approaches from behavioural economics to test the decisions and social preferences of people faced with real and costly economic decisions. My current work has the dual aims of (1) elucidating the mechanisms that foster cooperation between non-relatives and (2) improving the field’s understanding and interpretation of such data.

My doctoral work focused on the reproductive decisions of the paristoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Such decisions can conceptually be viewed as both social interactions (sex allocation when there are multiple foundresses sharing a patch) and economic decisions (investment in sons versus daughters to produce grand-offspring, time spent searching for a mate versus mate quality etc). Whilst it is familiar to ask if economic decisions are optimised, one can also predict that natural selection will optimise social interactions, because organisms will appear to be designed to maximise their inclusive fitness. This means they should invest strategically and optimally in their social partners and network, although not necessarily perfectly.






Selected Publications