The Lab

Principal Investigators

Charles Efferson

My research focuses on the gene-culture coevolution of human social cognition and behavior in domains involving conformity, coordination, conflict, and cooperation. I routinely mix evolutionary modeling with the analysis of both experimental and observational data. I have conducted fieldwork in Europe, Western Asia, Africa, and South America. Much of my current empirical research examines the social psychological mechanisms underlying social norms and cultural traditions that harm women and girls. This research often has direct policy implications, and it has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate extensively with UNICEF, the World Bank, and various NGOs.

I like to stand. Slow burn, etc.

Prof. Charles Efferson

Faculty of Business and Economics


University of Lausanne

Personal website


Sonja Vogt

I use lab and field experiments to examine the social and psychological mechanisms needed for sustainable behavioral change in development. Current projects include corruption in higher education in Colombia and South Africa, reducing school drop-outs in Malawi, female genital cutting in Sudan, pre-natal sex selection in Armenia, and social learning in Kenya. My research is in collaboration with UN agencies and local NGO’s. I am affiliated with Nuffield College and the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford; and the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern.

I like to walk. 

Prof. Sonja Vogt
Chair in Sustainable Social Development

Department of Social Sciences, University of Bern
Personal website



Senior Research Associates

Sönke Ehret

Sönke is a political scientist by training. He has worked on strategic political decision making and comparative political behavior, and has developed methods for online and computational experiments. He received his PhD from New York University in 2017, and was a Research Scientist at the University of Oxford from 2017-2019. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Bern and HEC Lausanne. He is broadly interested in the capacity of individuals to make sophisticated political choices, the ability of leaders to sway groups, and in the relationship between motivated reasoning and knowledge representations.

Email: soenke.ehret at and sonkeklaus.ehret at


Doctoral Students

Lisa Faessler

Lisa is a second-year Ph.D. student in Management at HEC Lausanne and is supervised by C. Efferson. She holds a BSc in Hospitality Management from the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and a MSc in Accounting, Control, and Finance from HEC Lausanne. Previously, she worked 3 years in a craft brewery. She is interested in the evolution of human social cognition and behavior and its applied potential in health. Lisa’s current research focuses on the link between culture and diet in Switzerland and the potential of applied cultural evolution to reverse harmful alcohol consumption.


Maria Pykälä

Maria holds an interdisciplinary BASc degree from University College London and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge. She has previously studied the evolution of sociality and cooperation among BaYaka hunter-gatherers. She is interested in the dynamics of human social network structure and cultural evolution, in particular with regards to innovation, collective cognition and collective problem-solving. Maria is a PhD student at HEC Lausanne at the University of Lausanne.


Robin Schimmelpfenning

Robin is a PhD student at the HEC – University of Lausanne, after having graduated from the London School of Economics. In his professional career, he has worked in Jordan, Uganda, London and Zurich. His research interest lies in exploring social- and economic behavior from a cultural evolutionary perspective. In Robin’s current work, he investigates when and how social learning can lead to (harmful) path dependencies in decision-making. In addition, this cultural evolutionary approach aims to inform the design and experimental testing of policy interventions in the field.



Lukas von Flüe

Lukas is a PhD student at the University of Bern, and is co-supervised by Prof. Sonja Vogt and Prof. Charles Efferson. He received an MA in Economics from the University of Zürich. As a member of the PACE Lab, Lukas works on heterogeneity in social learning. He is part of a 4-year research project funded by the SNF. The goal is to better understand the causes and forms of heterogeneity in social learning in the development context and its consequences on the aggregate level (e.g., diffusion of harmful cultural traditions). Further interests include the evolution of cooperation and the application of cultural evolution concepts to sustainability research.


Associated Researchers

Aysha Bellamy

Aysha’s current research is primarily on gene-culture coevolution.  She has conducted experimental studies to investigate how similarity modulates the ways in which we learn from others.  She also uses computational models to investigate the evolution of optimal decision making in both asocial and social contexts.  In particular, she studies how sexual selection may impact the perception of romantic relationships among men and women, surely one of the most fitness-relevant domains in which we find ourselves.  She is currently a PhD student in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Nils Köbis

Nils is a Post-Doctoral researcher at CREED, Department of Economics, University of Amsterdam. He is a behavioral scientist working on corruption(un-)ethical behaviorsocial norms and more recently artificial intelligence. You can find more about his work below, on his CV, or via LinkedIn,  Twitter,  ResearchGate  or GoogleScholar. He is a co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network and together with Matthew Stephenson and Christopher Starke hosts the KickBack – Global AntiCorruption Podcast.


Matthias Schief


I’m a PhD student at Brown University. I am interested in political economy, long-run economic growth, and development, as well as the theory and empirics of cultural evolution. In some of my current research, I study affective partisan polarization, population aging and economic inequality, and son-biased fertility preferences.


Ashley Pople

CSAE Profile PictureI am a PhD student in the Department of Economics at the University of Oxford. My research interests sit at the intersection of development, behavioral, and labor economics. I study how beliefs and visualisation (mental simulations) shape economic decision making and whether they can be fostered through educational interventions or skills training. I also investigate the role of frictions in online job matching. I am affiliated with the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) at Oxford. 

Jamie Walsh

I am a DPhil student at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. I am interested in the social and psychological foundations of human agency. I am affiliated with the Centre for Experimental Social Science at Nuffield, Centre for the Study of African Economies, and the Institute of Sociology at the University of Bern. I have worked with the World Bank since 2013 and in addition to my academic work, I provide support to the World Bank’s Behavioral Science Unit (eMBeD) on projects in Lebanon and Iraq. I spend most of my time engaging in diagnostic work to understand policy problems, creating behavioral interventions to solve those policy problems, and designing field experiments to test the effectiveness of those interventions. 


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