The most basic aspects of our psychology were shaped by the “social leap” our distant ancestors made from the rainforest to the savannah. In their struggle to survive on the open grassland, our ancestors prioritized cooperation and teamwork over physical prowess, creating a new form of social intelligence that set the stage for our rise to the top of the food chain. In this talk I trace our evolutionary history over the last six million years to show how events in our distant past guide our lives today.

Reading Recommendations:

  • Stephen Pinker – The Blank Slate
  • Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene
  • Robert Wright – The Moral Animal
  • Robert Sapolsky – 1) Behave 2) A Primate’s Memoir
  • Steve Stewart-Williams – The Ape that Understood the Universe
  • Michael Tomasello – 1) Becoming Human 2) A Natural History of Human Morality 3) A Natural History of Human Thinking
  • Robert Plomin – Blueprint
  • Christopher Boehm – 1) Hierarchy in the Forest 2) Moral Origins
  • Thomas Suddendorf – The Gap
  • Joseph Henrich – The Secret of our Success
  • David Buss – Evolutionary Psychology: The new science of the mind
Bill von Hippel - The Weekend University

William von Hippel is an evolutionary psychologist and the author of the bestselling book: ‘The Social Leap’. He grew up in Alaska, got his B.A. at Yale and his PhD at the University of Michigan, and then taught for a dozen years at Ohio State University before finding his way to Australia, where he is a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland. He has published more than a hundred articles, chapters, and edited books, and his research has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Economist, the BBC, Le Monde, El Mundo, Der Spiegel, and The Australian. He lives with his wife and two children in Brisbane, Australia.