Post-doctoral researcher for Prof. Stuart West
Magdalen College & New College
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.
Burton-Chellew MN, El Mouden C, & West SA (2017) Social-learning and the demise of cooperation in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology 28: 20170067
Burton-Chellew MN, El Mouden C, & West SA (2016) Conditional cooperation and confusion in public-goods experiments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 113: 1291-1296.
Nax, HH, Burton-Chellew MN, West SA, & Peyton Young H (2016). Learning in a black box. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organisation. 127: 1-15
Burton-Chellew, M. N., Nax, H. N. & West, S. A. (2015) Payoff-based learning explains the decline in cooperation in public goods games. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology 282: 20142678.
Kurzban, R., Burton-Chellew, M. N., & West, S. A. (2015) The evolution of altruism in humans. Annual Review of Psychology, 66: 575-599.
Burton-Chellew, M.N., May, R.M., & West, S.A. (2013) Combined inequality in wealth and risk leads to disaster in the climate change game. Climatic Change 120: 815-830
Burton-Chellew, M.N. & West, S.A. (2013) Prosocial preferences do not explain human cooperation in public-goods games. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 110, 216-221
*Kümmerli, R., *Burton-Chellew, M.N., Ross-Gillespie, A. & West, S.A. (2010) Resistance to extreme strategies, rather than prosocial preferences, can explain human cooperation in public goods games. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 107, 10125-10130