Douglas T. Kenrick, Ph.D., is author of over 190 scientific articles, books, and book chapters, the majority applying evolutionary ideas to human behavior and thought processes. At a theoretical level, his work integrates three great syntheses of the last few decades: evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and dynamical systems theory. Much of that work has been funded by NIMH and NSF and has been reported in journals including Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Psychological Review, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Evolution and Human Behavior. Kenrick has edited several books on evolutionary psychology, contributed chapters to the Handbook of Social Psychology and the Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, and been an author of two multi-edition textbooks (Social Psychology: Goals in Interaction, with Steve Neuberg and Bob Cialdini, is now in its 5th edition).
Kenrick comes not from an educated family but from a shoddy lot of hard-drinking shanty-town Irish trouble-makers, with a father and brother who both served time in Sing-Sing, and a sharp-dressing uncle who was reputed to be a mobster, among other non-academic familial distinctions. He himself appeared to be on the same track during his teenage years, during which he was expelled from two high schools and had to appeal a possible expulsion from college (after showing up drunk to class and heckling his first psychology professor). But although he has shamed his family by never getting his name in the papers for any criminal activity, he has done sometimes shocking research (on topics such as homicidal fantasies and one-night stands), which has been covered in national media, including Newsweek, New York Times, and many other newspapers and popular magazines. And although never featured as a perpetrator on Cops, Kenrick has appeared in several BBC and Discovery Channel documentaries on sexual attraction and evolution, and on the Oprah Winfrey show. His book Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life is now in paperback, and his new book The Rational Animal: How evolution made us smarter than we think will be released in September 2013.
What do sex and murder have to do with the meaning of life? Oscar Wilde said "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” But to see the stars -- to understand where human beings fit into the universe -- you have to be willing to look in the gutter -- to explore the simple selfish biases that link us with baboons, hyenas, chimpanzees, and naked mole rats. Ironically, studying those simple selfish biases helps us understand our generosity, creativity, and the emergence of human society.