UCL Anthropology


Shakti Lamba

Post Doctoral Fellow (2011-2015)

PhD in Biological Anthropology (2010), UCL, UK
Research Assistant (2004-2006), Insect Behaviour Lab, Indian Institute of Science, India
MSc in Biology (2004), Oxford University, UK
BSc in Zoology (2003), Delhi University, India

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8781

I am broadly interested in the evolution of sociality and culture. In particular, I am interested in understanding the mechanisms and processes that lead to the evolution of cooperation and altruism. My research combines methods from behavioural ecology, evolutionary economics and cultural evolution.

A key focus of my research is the evolution of large-scale cooperation in human populations. Large-scale cooperation between unrelated individuals is an evolutionary puzzle. While major theoretical advances have been made in recent years, there is a need for empirical work evaluating whether existing theory explains real-world patterns of cooperation. My work contributes to an empirical research programme testing gene-culture co-evolution models of cooperation in real-world populations. The main objective is to test whether variation in cooperation across populations is driven by differences in demography and ecology or culture. My study populations are multiple villages of a small-scale forager-horticultural society called the Pahari Korwa living in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. My methods combine behavioural data collected via experimental economic games as well as more naturalistic measures of behaviour with demographic, ecological and social data on individuals and populations.

I am currently working on projects studying the evolution of punishment (with Prof. Ruth Mace, University College London), and the evolution of self-deception (with Dr. Vivek Nityananda, Queen Mary, University of London).


  • Lamba, S. & Mace, R. (in press) Demography and ecology drive variation in cooperation across human populations. PNAS
  • Lamba, S. & Mace, R. (2010) People recognise when they are really anonymous in an economic game. Evolution and Human Behavior 31, 271-278.
  • Lamba, S., Chandrasekhar, K. & Gadagkar, R. (2008) Signalling hunger through aggression - the regulation of foraging in a primitively eusocial wasp. Naturwissenschaften 95: 677-680.
  • Lamba, S., Claire Kazi, Y., Deshpande, S., Natesh, M., Bhadra, A. & Gadagkar, R. (2007) A possible novel function of dominance behaviour in queen-less colonies of the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata.Behavioural Processes 74: 351-356.

Field site:

Since 2007 I have been working with populations of the Pahari Korwa, a small-scale, forager-horticultural society in Chhattissgarh, India. Heavily reliant on gathered forest products, which are a primary source of food and income, the Pahari Korwa also practice agriculture on small tracts of land. These economic resources are supplemented by opportunistic hunting, fishing and wage labor. So far, I have worked in twenty-one Pahari Korwa villages with approximately seven hundred people.

Other Professional Activities:

Steering Committee Member and Secretary, European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (2011-2014)

Treasurer (2009-2010), London Evolutionary Research Network