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John Orbell

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My earlier interest in cooperative behavior morphed during the 90s into an interest in evolutionary psychology and, in particular, Darwinian thinking about how cooperative dispositions might have evolved.  Between 2000 and this past year, I have worked with various collaborators on simulations and other studies addressing various issues in that domain.  Specifically, with Jason Hartwig, Tomonori Morikawa, Nick Allen and James Hanley, I worked on some ideas about how the problem of cooperation could be related to the idea of Machiavellian intelligence—the idea that we are designed by evolution to negotiate a very complex and sometimes dangerous social world.  Subsequently, working initially with Oleg Smirnov, Holly Arrow and Douglas Kennett, I became interested in the problem of how “heroic” behavior could have been supported by natural selection—that is, extreme acts of cooperation in a military context.  Once this project was completed, Tomonori Morikawa and I started work on a content analysis of the wills, letters and poems left by Japan’s Kamikaze pilots during WWII, asking the same question from those materials.  That project, now completed, is about to be published.  During this period, I also worked with Tim Johnson and Misha Myagkov on laboratory experiments addressing the possibility that Kahneman’s and Tversky’s famous ‘prospect theory’ might have limitations within the domain of human sociality—which we understand as the risky decision to enter social relationships with other humans.
Most recently, I have switched gears and have begun working with a group on an NSF-funded project to construct a counterpoint to climatologists’ models of climate change—specifically, to model the likely human response to predicted climate changes worldwide.  This is a four year project involving Oleg Smirnov (political scientist, project PI), Haipeng Xing (mathematical statistician) and Minghua Zhang (climatologist) from Stony Brook;  and Amy Lobben (geographer) and Douglas Kennett (Archaeology) from the University of Oregon.

Remembering Professor Orbell

With great sadness, the Department of Political Science reports that John Orbell, professor emeritus, passed away in 2018.

Personal rememberances of Professor Orbell can be read and shared HERE.

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