About Douglas Kenrick

I am a social psychology professor at Arizona State University. I’ve published over 180 scientific articles, books, and book chapters on a wide range of topics: including romantic love, sexual attraction, homicidal fantasies, conspicuous consumption, creative display, altruism, and even explored the links between sex and religion. At a theoretical level, my work integrates three “Big Ideas” from the modern behavioral and brain sciences: evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and dynamical systems theory. As I describe in my recently released book, Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, this work has led me to a profound insight: If you want 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 we inherited from our animalistic ancestors.

I’ve edited several books on evolutionary psychology, contributed chapters to the Handbook of Social Psychology and the Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, and I’ve been an author of two multi-edition textbooks (Social Psychology: Goals in Interaction, with Steve Neuberg and Bob Cialdini, is now its 5th edition).

Many college professors and researchers come from educated upper middle class families. But not me. I take a perverse pride in hailing 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. I myself appeared to be on the same track during my teenage years, during which I 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 I shamed my family by never getting my name in the papers for any criminal activity, I have 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, I have appeared in several BBC and Discovery Channel documentaries on sexual attraction and evolution, and on the Oprah Winfrey show.

I have a blog for Psychology Today, called Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, where I highlight new and exciting psychological research findings, and with my son David Lundberg Kenrick, I coauthor another Psychology Today blog called The Caveman Goes to Hollywood, in which we review films through an evolutionary lens. For more information about my research, check out my website.

Douglas Kenrick Articles