Welcome to the Evolution and Human Behavior Lab! An evolutionary perspective provides a unifying lens for understanding human behavior. Our hominin forebears have undergone important shifts in subsistence, coalitions, mating behavior, parenting and much more in the past few million years. We’re interested in addressing how human cognition, behavior and physiology play out across various socio-ecologies in the world today. We believe that the best of this kind of integrative research attempts to combine the latest in interdisciplinary evolutionary theory; findings from comparative animal research; naturalistic observational studies and behavioral methods; places human behavior in social context, also employing life history theory to do so; and considers function in addition to physiological mechanisms, development, and phylogeny. Please browse the lab website and let us know if this is a place where you might find a research or exploratory place.

Dr. Peter Gray overlooking a town


Dr. Peter Gray engages in evolutionary-inspired research on human reproduction. In practice, this means devoting much of his teaching and research to central concerns in human sexuality, parenting, and family dynamics. As more pets have been viewed as family members, this has opened new avenues for human-animal interaction possibilities too. Gray engages in work on human behavioral endocrinology, with limited capacity for salivary steroid assays at UNLV. In recent years, he has worked with collaborators in the Caribbean (Jamaica and St. Kitts), the U.S., India and South Africa.

The research scope of current and past lab group members is broad. Yet several consistent themes underpin the approaches employed and topics studied by lab group members. These include: evolutionary and life history theory; recognition of the value of Tinbergen’s framework (complementary adaptive, phylogenetic, developmental and mechanistic approaches); situating human cognition and behavior in socioecological context; and encouraging individual professional and personal interests in the pursuit of meaningful research topics.

Please email Dr. Gray if you are a prospective graduate student with overlapping areas of interest in graduate school, or you are a current graduate student or advanced undergraduate student at UNLV and would like to participate in a weekly, informal, interdisciplinary lab/reading group. The research interests of past and present student lab members run a wide gamut, and include:

  • PCOS among women in Delhi, India
  • Sexuality of postpartum nursing mothers in Manila, Philippines
  • Women’s responses to sexual infidelity in Jamaica
  • Children’s hormone responses to individual and coalitional competition in Hong Kong
  • Men’s testosterone responses to poker competition
  • Men’s testosterone, cortisol, DHEA, androstenedione and aldosterone responses to playing League of Legends
  • Cross-cultural approaches to human-pet dynamics
  • Mate preferences among single mothers
  • Content coding of websites marketing testosterone supplementation
  • In varied cultural contexts, investigating men's experiences on prescription testosterone
  • Pubic hair removal practices in cross-cultural perspective
  • Twitter content analysis of Major League Baseball (MLB) during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic
  • Jamaican university women’s mate choices in a context of mate scarcity
  • Women’s oxytocin responses to interactions with pet cats
  • Predictors of successful pet adoption
St Kitts


Dr. Peter Gray teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses including:

ANT 102: Introduction to Biological Anthropology

ANT 469/669: Evolution of Human Behavior

ANT 471/671: Evolution of Human Sexuality

ANT 475/675: Evolutionary Medicine

ANT 360: Dogs, Cats, and Other Beasts: Anthropology of Animals

ANT 362: Anthropology of Sports

HON 310: Anthrozoology: Dogs, Cats, and Human-Animal Interaction

ANT 761: Current Thoughts in Physical Anthropology (e.g., Evolution and Human Reproduction)

Other courses within Anthropology and other Divisions (e.g., Psychology, School of Life Sciences, School of Public Health) have topical emphases on the evolution and physiology of human behavior. Some of these Anthropology courses include:

ANT 403: Anthropology of Women and Men (by Alyssa Crittenden and/or Bill Jankowiak)

ANT 417/617: Evolution and Culture: ‘Darwinian’ Models of Culture (by Pierre Lienard)

ANT 422/622: Psychological Anthropology (by Bill Jankowiak)

ANT 426: Medical Anthropology (by Dan Benyshek)

ANT 444/644: Bioarchaeology (by Debra Martin)

ANT 460/660: Primate Evolution (by Brian Villmoare)

ANT 466/666: Nutritional Anthropology (by Dan Benyshek)

ANT 467/667: Health and Disease in Antiquity (by Debra Martin)

Darwin Rivera

For graduate students, there are excellent opportunities for integrative training in concert with other departmental faculty. This is of benefit when organizing a thesis or dissertation committee and when seeking broad training combining perspectives of evolutionary psychology, human behavioral ecology, human behavioral endocrinology, evolutionary and life history theory, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), the hominin and fossil archaeological record, the evidence and influences of animal domestication, ethnographic methods, cross-cultural comparisons, and applied human health.

A number of other UNLV Anthropology faculty provide expertise contributing to an understanding of evolution and human behavior. Dr. Alyssa Crittenden conducts research with the Hadza, hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, and addresses a variety of research topics on childhood, nutrition, and social behavior. Dr. Pierre Lienard conducts research on the evolution of human cognition, with an emphasis on ritual, risk, and social behavior. Dr. Bill Jankowiak employs evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives to help integrate findings from long-term ethnographic field research in urban China and within a U.S. polygynous Mormon community, in addition to a variety of Las Vegas projects related to human sex differences, romantic love, and sexuality. Dr. Ivan Sandoval-Cervantes engages in research on human-dog dynamics, and provides field methodological expertise. Dr. Dan Benyshek has conducted research concerning the etiology and ethnographic context of metabolic health problems among Native American communities in addition to lab-based experimental rodent studies designed to address causal mechanisms and developmental pathways underlying metabolic disorders. Dr. Brian Villmoare engages in research on hominins, particularly Australopithecus in Ethiopia, and also has interests in the evolution of hominin social behavior. Other faculty such as Dr. Debra Martin (bioarchaeology), Dr. Levent Atici (origins of agriculture), and Dr. Liam Frink (hunter-gatherers) offer courses that contribute to an integrative training program focused on the evolution of human behavior.)


Publications and Media

A list of publications by Dr. Peter Gray can be found in his CV.

Research by Dr. Gray and colleagues has attracted media attention from a variety of sources, including in recent years the Las Vegas Review Journal, Washington Post, Aeon, Times of India, New Zealand Herald, ABC Online, MSN, National Geographic, Denver Post, and KNPR, among others.

Dog In The Desert

Current Lab Members

Peter Gray

Director of Lab
Peter Gray
Office: WRI-A 126
Phone: 702-895-3586

Nikki Bennett

Ph.D. student
Headshot of Nikki Bennett

Ivannia Cabrera

Undergraduate Student
Headshot of Ivannia Cabrera

A’liciah Carr

Ph.D. Student
headshot of A’liciah Carr

Elizabeth Johnson

Ph.D. Student
Headshot of Elizabeth Johnson

Dora Segura

Undergraduate Student
Photo of Dora Segura

Silvio Ernesto Mirabal Torres

Undergraduate Student
Silvio Ernesto Mirabal Torres

Lab Alumni: Regular participants in lab meetings and who worked with Dr. Gray in some research capacity (and please email Dr. Gray if you would like to be added or update your information)