Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

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 work in public engagement, details of which follow below.

Google Scholar: Click here.

Public engagement

Winner of public engagement award from the North East of England Branch of the British Psychological Society, February 2017.

Public engagement officer for the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution.

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

2018: Fulcrum Arts and Research. Contribution to examples of practice in public engagement, Association for Academic Outreach, Lancaster University (Example of practice) and to submission of evidence by the Association to the Civic University Commission (Submission of evidence).

2017: Advisor to Bridge Tunnel Productions and film maker Dr Tina Gharavi on her documentary Tribalism is Killing Us on the themes of discrimination and racism (https://vimeo.com/204184305). 

2017: Invited contribution, 'Cooperation and adversity: evolutionary and cultural perspectives', to a conference on the project in the following item here. January. See also Lazarus (2017 Global Discourse) under Publications tab.

2015: Led the Fulcrum event on social dilemmas for Dr Matthew Johnson’s cross-cultural project ‘Good Culture and Precariousness’, Ashington, Northumberland. June. For my report on the event, 'Cooperation Games Event, Ashington', see here.

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 Skinner's 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’ by Dr Matthew Johnson (University of Lancaster). Interview available, August.

2014: Presented Café Scientifique, ‘Dancing Donkeys Pub Quiz’, a Fulcrum Arts and Research event on social dilemma games, Empty Shop HQ, Durham. June.

2014: Discussant on the evolutionary biology of community, Discussion Evening at the exhibition ‘Transformation Content’ by Louise Mackenzie, 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) 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). September.

2013: Organizer of the British Science Festival event: ‘The Big Society? Interactive Psychology Games’. 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, Newcastle University. June.

2013: ‘Dancing Donkeys Pub Quiz’, a Fulcrum Group event on social dilemma games, ‘Convention, Habit or Custom’ project, Newcastle. May.

2013-2018: Director of Research, Fulcrum Arts and Research (‘Understanding Science through the Arts’).

2013: Film presentation and Q&A: Crimes and Misdemeanors (dir. Woody Allen), first in the SciScreen series, 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.

2012: Social dilemma games. Contribution to The Festival of the Apocalypse, an event in The Encampment of Eternal Hope exhibition, 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

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. 

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 and CD recordings.

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.

Area of expertise: evolutionary analysis of behaviour


Research Interests

Negativity bias

I have recently proposed a hypothesis for the evolution of the psychological phenomenon of negativity bias, together with an empirical programme for its further analysis.

Cooperation: Evolution and Social Policy

I am working to understand how cooperation has evolved in the organic world, and particularly in the human species. I am currently analysing how cooperation varies with adversity and uncertainty, and how it coevolves with intention signals.

The solution to many problems in social policy – climate change negotiation, environmental degradation, vaccination hesitancy and many others – hinges on finding ways to encourage players to cooperate for the common good. I am editing a journal issue which brings together behavioural researchers with expertise in cooperation and social policy practitioners to examine how the research on cooperation can be brought to bear on these problems.

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.

Esteem Indicators

Journal Editorships

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

2011-: Advisory Editorial Board Member, Global Discourse: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Current Affairs and Applied Contemporary Thought.

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, Psychology, University of Edinburgh.
Member of experts panel and media panel, British Psychological Society.




PSY1006: Instinct, Learning and Motivation. Contributing lectures and assignment. Up to and including 2020-21.

PSY3001: Evolution and Behaviour. Module leader from 2016-17 to 2018-19.