About me

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Hi and thank you for your interest in my research! I primarily focus on the evolution and characterization of human social behaviours. How do we cooperate and choose to help others, where when and why do we invest in others? Can the study of animal behaviour help us to understand ourselves better? And yes, I’m looking for a permanent position, so please, contact me if you think I’d fit the profile of your institution (maxwell.burton@unil.ch).

My current work combines the thinking and methodologies from various disciplines, primarily evolutionary biology, animal behaviour, and behavioural economics, with a dash of anthropology and psychology. I seek to truly understand and explain what the challenging results of behavioural economics experiments really mean.  Do they really show that humans are uniquely altruistic, or that we are not well adapted to our current environment, or something else? How does learning, both individually and from others, affect cooperation?

My work is often published in inter-disciplinary journals (PNAS, Nature Human Behaviour) and specialist journals in different fields (American Naturalist; Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology; Evolution and Human Behaviour; Current Anthropology). I have a broad training, after an original degree in Biology and N. American Studies (Sussex Uni. and Penn State Uni.), I then completed an MSc in Integrative Bioscience (Oxford Uni.) and a PhD in evolutionary biology and animal behaviour (Edinburgh Uni.). Subsequently I have been employed as a researcher in  various disciplines: Anthropology (Oxford Uni.), Zoology (Oxford Uni.), Sociology (Nuffield College, Oxford Uni.), and now Economics (Lausanne Uni.).

Previously I was a lecturer in Human Sciences at Oxford, and regularly taught evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology and animal behaviour. Before that, my PhD was on the mating and reproductive decisions in a gregarious parisitoid wasp (Nasonia vitripennis). I conceptualized the behaviour of the wasps as a series of investment decisions, rationalized by the long process of Natural Selection, with the aim of maximizing the return of grand-offspring. Therefore the study of animal behaviour and economics has many parallels, except that humans are probably now less rational (the questions is, why?).

I’m currently a teaching assistant for a Masters specialization course at Lausanne, on Behaviour, Economics and Evolution (course details). Apart from teaching human behaviour, I also have ample teaching experience in evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology, and animal behaviour, and I am an amateur soccer coach. I love to teach.

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