Max Krasnow, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
Max Krasnow is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard. He received his PhD in psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara in the area of developmental and evolutionary psychology. His research primarily focuses on the evolutionary origins and computational design of the mechanisms underlying human cooperation and social behavior. One line of his research, appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has explored how facets of the ancestral information landscape—that the future of any interaction is uncertain—conspire with distinctive features of the hominin social niche to select for organisms that are more generous, trusting, and cooperative than an otherwise rational analysis would predict. In related work, he has shown in a series of behavioral experiments how these and other fundamental components of human social behavior, like our concern for the treatment of others and our punitive sentiments towards bad actors, show intricate design to support the cultivation of mutually beneficial cooperative relationships and to improve their terms when they begin to function poorly. Another research focus concerns adaptations for gathering in human spatial cognition. For decades research in human spatial abilities revealed a robust male advantage in many tasks related to large-scale navigation. Yet, ethnographic surveys and archeological evidence suggests a longstanding sexual division of foraging labor with women engaging in more habitual gathering than men. Krasnow demonstrated that this inconsistency was due to the poor fit between the features of traditional tests of spatial cognition and the features of a spatial memory system designed for gathering.


  • PhD University of California Santa Barbara