Dr John Lazarus
Associate Researcher

I am a biologist and psychologist whose primary research interest is social evolution. I am also interested in ethics and I work in public engagement, details of which follow below.


Public engagement

Public engagement officer for the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution.

Director of Research for Fulcrum Arts and Research (https://www.facebook.com/FulcrumArtsAndResearch).

Consultant and contributor on science and arts/science collaborations for the printed media, radio, theatre, academia and The Poetry Society.


2015: Fulcrum event on social dilemmas for Dr Matthew Johnson’s cross-cultural project ‘Good Culture and Precariousness’ (http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/good-culture/), Ashington, Northumberland. June. For my report on the event, 'Cooperation Games Event, Ashington', see: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/good-culture/events/cooperation-games/.

2015: Two workshops on ‘Correlation and Causation’ in the series of ‘Science Tips for Policy Makers’, Fulcrum Arts and Research workshops based on Nature Comment paper. Culture Lab, Newcastle University, March-April.

2014-2016: Psychological consultant to Improbable theatre company on ‘Opening Skinners’ Box’, devised theatre show at Northern Stage, Newcastle (April 2016) and other venues, based on 20th century psychology studies. September 2014-April 2016.

2014: Filmed interview on the evolution of human cooperation for the project ‘Good Culture and Precariousness’ (http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/good-culture/) by Dr Matthew Johnson (University of Lancaster). Interview available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19YNv3Vn4aM August.

2014: Presented Café Scientifique, ‘Dancing Donkeys Pub Quiz’, a Fulcrum Arts and Research event on social dilemma games (http://emptyshop.org/event/cafe-scientifique-durham-city-2/?instance_id=25820), Empty Shop HQ, Durham. June.

2014: Discussant on the evolutionary biology of community, Discussion Evening at the exhibition ‘Transformation Content’ by Louise Mackenzie (http://www.loumackenzie.com), The Holy Biscuit Gallery, Newcastle. March.

2013: Presented ‘The Big Society – The role of Evolutionary Biology in Understanding Cooperation’, a Fulcrum Arts and Research workshop in which a scientific talk is followed by the audience explaining the science through artistic means (writing, performance and visual art) (https://www.facebook.com/FulcrumArtsAndResearch). Newcastle University, November.

2013: Interview with public audience, and demonstration of cooperation game, for British Science Festival’s Xchange team on ‘The Big Society? Interactive Psychology Games’ event (podcast: (http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/british-science-festival/x-change-podcast-day-3). September.

2013: Organizer of the British Science Festival event: ‘The Big Society? Interactive Psychology Games’ (https://www.questia.com/newspaper/1G1-337129643/game-of-life-surprises-are-you-trustworthy-a-game). September.

2013: ‘Game of Life Surprises’: article in The Journal, (Newcastle daily paper) pp. 19-21, on forthcoming British Science Festival event, ‘The Big Society? Interactive Psychology Games’. 18 July.

2013: Discussant, with Dr John Gowing, of the film Darwin’s Nightmare, Cinema Politica (http://www.cinemapolitica.org/screening/newcastle/darwins-nightmare), Newcastle University. June.

2013: ‘Dancing Donkeys Pub Quiz’, a Fulcrum Group event on social dilemma games, ‘Convention, Habit or Custom’ project, Newcastle (http://thenewbridgeproject.com/exhibitions/exhibitions-2/convention-habit-or-custom/). May.

2013-ongoing: Director of Research, Fulcrum Arts and Research (‘Understanding Science through the Arts’ https://www.facebook.com/FulcrumArtsAndResearch).

2013: Film presentation and Q&A: Crimes and Misdemeanors (dir. Woody Allen), first in the SciScreen series (https://www.tynesidecinema.co.uk/whats-on/films/view/sciscreen-crimes-and-misdemeanors), Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle. February.

2013: Contribution on SciScreen Newcastle to ‘British Science Festival 2013: Get Ready!’ meeting, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle. January.

2012-2013: Answers to science questions from the public in advance of the British Science Festival  (http://ideastakeflight.org/?page_id=560).

2012: Social dilemma games. Contribution to The Festival of the Apocalypse (https://www.balticmill.com/whats-on/artist-events/the-festival-of-the-apocalypse), an event in The Encampment of Eternal Hope exhibition (https://www.balticmill.com/whats-on/exhibitions/detail/zoe-walker-neil-bromwich-encampment), Baltic Gallery, Gateshead. December.

2012: Lessons to two Year 4 classes at Grafton Primary School, Holloway, London, on Darwin and adaptation. October.

2012: Lecture on ‘Darwin and Evolution’ to Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Coquetdale Branch, Rothbury. March.

2012: Lecture on ‘Evolution, Extinction and the Lost Humans’ with Daniel Nettle, for National Science & Engineering Week, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle. March.

2012: Lecture on ‘Darwin and Evolution’ to Alnwick U3A. September.

2011-ongoing: Public engagement officer, Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University.

2010: Member of think-tank: The Rules of the Playground (A Theory of Difference): Outsiders, Identity & How Power is Negotiated. http://therulesoftheplayground.wordpress.com/

2010: Lecture on ‘Darwin and Evolution’ to Coquetdale U3A, Rothbury.

2010: Co-director with Lady Kitt of the exhibition Communic8 2 Co-oper8: The Cautious Optimist, an arts/science collaboration, Gallery of Wonder, Newcastle University, 5th October - 5th November. http://www.galleryofwonder.co.uk/infoKittLazarus.html

2009-10: Reading group leader for Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ and ‘The Descent of Man’, Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle and Newcastle University.

2009: Lecture on ‘Darwin and Evolution’ to the Rothbury and Coquetdale History Society and the Coquetdale Group of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Rothbury.

2009: Textual contributions to Darwin Exhibition, University Library, Newcastle University.

2009: Teaching natural selection to KS4 and KS5 students, ‘Evolve!’ workshop, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle.

2009: Introduction and Q&A for Darwin Festival films Creation and Inherit the Wind. Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle. October-November.

2009: Darwin Quiz, Students’ Union, Newcastle University.

2009: Interview on Darwin for MA radio project.

2009: Member of Darwin Bicentenary Festival committee, Newcastle University.

2007 & 2008: Workshops on animal communication for ‘Setting Language Research to Music’ projects for secondary school students, School of English, Newcastle University, leading to performances at The Sage, Gateshead.

2005-2006: Consulted by BBC News Online and other media on science stories.

2005: Poetry and Science Experiment, Newcastle, organised by The Poetry Society, with presentation on National Poetry Day, Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle. 6 October.

2005: Contribution to BBC Radio 4 and World Service science programme on sex ratios.

2004: Science advisor to Live Theatre, Newcastle 'Distillations' youth science/drama project, funded by Wellcome Trust.

2002-05: UK and overseas magazine interviews on the subject of human sex ratios.

1991: Invitation from Radio 4 concerning anti-predator research in Serengeti gazelles.

1990: Interview for local newspaper on anti-predator research in Serengeti gazelles.

1987: Interview for national newspaper on the biology and evolution of sexual behaviour.

1973: Field project on the behaviour of the pink-footed goose: environmental impact of Icelandic hydro-electric scheme.

Research Interests

Evolution of Cooperation

I am interested in how cooperation has evolved in the organic world, and particularly in the human species. Research work with colleagues involves multi-agent computer models and empirical work with human participants. Current interest focusses on understanding how cooperation varies with adversity and uncertainty, and how it coevolves with intention signals. I am also contributing to an interdisciplinary taxonomy of cooperation with a defence scientist.

Trade-Offs in Human Mate Choice

Studies of human mate choice tend to focus on a single attribute of choice, whereas choosing a mate involves simultaneous judgement of a number of attributes. I have developed a method for measuring the way in which people trade off the importance of two different attributes in judging the desirability of a potential partner. The method allows quantification of the equivalence of two different mate qualities; for example, the degree of facial attractiveness a woman would forgo in one partner in order to gain another who had, say, an additional £20,000 a year in salary. We have used the method to test hypotheses about the relative importance of different mate qualities as a function of variables of adaptive interest, such as age, relationship status and the nature of the relationship sought. This work continues with colleagues at the University of Dundee.

Human Sex Ratios

With colleagues at other institutions I am examining the Trivers-Willard theory that high status or condition partnerships will tend to have sons rather than daughters, while low status partnerships will tend to have daughters.

Esteem Indicators

Journal Editorships

1996-1998: Animal Behaviour.
2001-2004: Ethology.

Appointments on Scientific Bodies

1981, 1984: Consulting Editor, Animal Behaviour.
1981-84, 1991-93: Council member, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
1983-1992: Council member, International Council of Ethologists.
1985-90: Hon. Treasurer, Company Secretary, Chairman of Grants Committee, and Secretary of the Finance and Journal Committees of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Other Work for External Bodies

Research strategy adviser, University of Edinburgh.
Member of experts panel and media panel, British Psychological Society.


PSY1006: Instinct, Learning and Motivation. Contributing lectures and assignment.

PSY3001: Evolution and Behaviour. Module leader from 2016-17.