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Antonio Silva


Year of start: 2011
Subject: Biological Anthropology

Research Topic

The Evolutionary Ecology of Cooperation and Conflict - A Case Study on the Protestant and Catholic Communities in Northern Ireland


Prof Ruth Mace


I am interested in trying to understand why and when people cooperate with each other. I use naturalistic methods and field experiments to determine the individual and ecological contexts that promote cooperative behaviour. I completed my PhD in 2015 investigating how inter-group conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland affects within and between group cooperation. My other work includes running RCTs on how social norms affect university tuition fees payment rates and looking at the role of fairness and conformist norms on 3rd party punishment.

I also work at the Behavioural Insights Team on a broad range of topics, from reducing loneliness, raising educational attainment and promoting social cohesion.

Research Interests

  • Evolution of Cooperation
  • Evolution of Religion
  • Field experiments

Academic and Professional Background

Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team – Cabinet Office (Current)
MSc Human Evolution & Behaviour, UCL (2010)
PGCert in Photography, Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design (2007)
BSc Environmental Biology, University of West of England (2005)


Silva, A.S. & Mace, R. (2016) Commentary on Richerson et al, 2016 - The role of cultural group selection in explaining human cooperation is a hard case to prove. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 39, 33.

Silva, A.S. & Mace, R. (2015). Inter-group conflict and cooperation: field experiments before, during and after sectarian riots in Northern IrelandFrontiers in Psychology, 6(1790). 

Silva, A.S. & Mace, R. (2014). Cooperation and conflict: field experiments in Northern IrelandProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281, 20141435

Bone, J., Silva, A.S. & Raihani, N.J. (2014). Defectors, not norm violators, are punished by third-partiesBiology Letters 10, 20140388

Holland, J., Silva, A. S., & Mace, R. (2012). Lost Letter Measure of Variation in Altruistic Behaviour in 20 NeighbourhoodsPloS One, 7(8), e43294

Silva, A.S., Lummaa, V., Muller, U., Raymond, M. & Alvergne, A. (2012). Facial attractiveness and fertility in populations with low levels of modern birth controlEvolution & Human Behaviour, 33 (5), 491-498

Silva, A.S. (2011). Face Values, a review of In Your Face - The New Science of Human Attraction by David Perrett. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 9(2), 201-203


FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
ERC - European Research Council

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