Mr Scott Claessens

BSc Psychology (First class honours); MRes Evolution and Human Behaviour (Distinction)

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Research Fellow
Doctoral Candidate - Doctor of Philosophy


Scott Claessens (PhD candidate) holds a BSc in Psychology (First class honours) from the University of Bristol, UK, and an MRes in Evolution and Human Behaviour (Distinction) from Newcastle University, UK. After receiving his Masters degree, he was invited to study at Arizona State University in the USA for several months, as a Visiting Scholar. In 2018, Scott was awarded a Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Auckland, and moved to New Zealand to study for his PhD in Psychology.


Research | Current

Human cooperation is unique in the animal kingdom. While many species exhibit cooperative behaviours (i.e. benefiting another individual at a cost to oneself), these are typically directed towards kin. However, human societies are characterised by large-scale cooperation between unrelated individuals, even strangers, setting us apart from other animals. But, how is this level of cooperation maintained when free-riders could easily exploit the generosity of others?

To explore this question, Scott studies the biological and cultural evolution of human cooperation. He uses methods from experimental economics and evolutionary game theory to shed light on how and why humans give to others. Specifically, his PhD research focuses on how the strategies humans use to cooperate with others, and to punish norm-violators, may have an upstream influence on our political ideologies.

Teaching | Current

In 2017, Scott acted as a Teaching Assistant at Arizona State University. He supervised undergraduate Psychology sessions on Evolutionary Psychology.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Neilands, P. D., Claessens, S., Ren, I., Hassall, R. S., Pinkusfeld Medeiros Bastos, A., & taylor, A. H. (2020). Contagious yawning is not a signal of empathy: no evidence of familiarity, gender or prosociality biases in dogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287 (1920)10.1098/rspb.2019.2236
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Amalia Bastos, Alexander Taylor


Contact details

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Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 3, Room 358
New Zealand

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