Leda Cosmides

  • Discipline: Professor of Psychology
  • Organization: University of California, Santa Barbara

Leda Cosmides is best known for her work in pioneering the new field of evolutionary psychology. This multidisciplinary new approach weaves together cognitive science, human evolution, hunter gatherer studies, neuroscience, psychology and evolutionary biology into a new approach to understanding and mapping the human mind and brain. According to this new view, by understanding the adaptive problems our hunter-gatherer ancestors faced during their evolution, researchers can uncover the detailed functional designs of the emotions, reasoning "instincts" and motivations that human evolution produced.

She developed her interest in rebuilding psychology along evolutionary lines while an undergraduate at Harvard, where she got her A.B. in biology (1979) and her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology (1985). Cosmides did postdoctoral work with Roger Shepard at Stanford and was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, before moving to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she has been on the faculty since 1991.

Cosmides won the 1988 American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Behavioral Science Research, the 1993 American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology, and a J. S. Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. In 1992, with John Tooby, she published The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, an edited volume designed to be a state of the art survey of the new field.

Leda Cosmides is currently Professor of Psychology at UCSB. She and John Tooby founded and co-direct the UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology. Her newest book,What Is Evolutionary Psychology: Explaining the New Science of the Mind, was published by Yale University Press in 2003.