Robert  Trivers


I have been an evolutionary biologist since the fall of 1965 when I first learned that natural selection is the key to understanding life and that it favors traits that give individuals an advantage (in producing surviving offspring). Spring of 1966 I learned Hamilton’s kinship theory, which extended one’s self-interest to include not only one’s own offspring but also those of relatives, each devalued by the appropriate degree of relatedness.

I was eager to contribute to building social theory based on natural selection, because a scientific system of social theory must, by logic be based on natural selection, and getting the foundations correct would have important implications for understanding our own psyches and social systems. A general system of logic that applies to all creatures also vastly extends the range of relevant evidence.

I then published a series of papers on social topics: reciprocal altruism (1971), parental investment and sexual selection (1972), the sex ratio (1973), parent-offspring conflict (1974), kinship and sex ratio in the social insects (1976), summarized in my book on social evolution (1985).  All of these papers can be downloaded from my ‘bibliography’ and a link to the book can be found under ‘books’.

I devoted 1990 to
2005 to mastering genetics, in particular, selfish genetic elements, which typically are harmful to the organism as a whole but spread through within-individual genetic conflict. They infect all known organisms, including ourselves and come in many different forms. This entire subject is reviewed in my book with Austin Burt (2006), a link to which can be found under ‘books’ and various papers on the subject can also be found in my ‘bibliography’.

Finally, I have recently attempted to master the scientific literature on self-deception and to sketch out some of the many applications of the resulting view. Links to this book are found here on the front page. Links to earlier papers on the subject can be found in the ‘publications’.

Webmaster: Norm Productions

Updated: May 6, 2012


About Me

Number of Amazon Reviews (5 is very positive; 1 very negative)

             5        4        3       2      1    Average

UK     16      12      5       4       1           4.0

US      9         3      5       8      13          2.2


Knee symmetry predicts sprinting speed in Jamaicans--14 years later.

In a very striking finding the Jamaican Research Project has shown that

the degree of knee symmetry in 8 year old boys and girls positively predicts sprinting speed in 100 and 200 meter dashes 14 years later, at age 22. Presently we are preparing to measure knee and related symmetry in 75 elite Jamaican sprinters and a control sample math for age and sex. Read more here.

NEWS FLASH (March 30, 2014)

RUTGERS withholds Dr Trivers’ Salary for THREE MONTHS as Punishment for his Honesty to Undergraduates

On the same logic outlined below, Rutgers has followed through on its threat to withhold my salary, this April May and June (letter from Vice President Edwards, March 28, 2014). The Vice President backs up a letter from the Dean saying that he, the Dean, and his committee found that:

“It is inconceivable that Amy Jacobson a PhD student whom you trained, was able to give a successful course on this topic, but that you, a world-renowned evolutionary anthropologist, somehow were not qualified.”

THIS is mistaken on several grounds.

1—I am not an anthropologist. I have never taken a course in anthropology. I am an evolutionary BIOLOGIST. If I am world-renowned it is for good reasons. I have worked hard for 45 years to master major areas of evolutionary biology, including topics on which I teach courses at Rutgers— social evolution, natural selection and social theory, selfish genetic elements, deceit and self-deception, human evolutionary genetics. For these courses, I have consistently received high evaluations from students.

While Rutgers chooses to refer to me as “world-renowned”, it nonetheless gets my discipline wrong and utterly fails to explain their sudden decision to assign me a brand new course that had already been developed and taught twice by someone else. One might question why would Rutgers choose to make this move against one of its (arguably) greatest scientists?

Second Rutgers presumes that the student learns from the professor not the other way around. Note the language. They choose to describe Dr Jacobson as “a PhD student”. No, folks, she has had her doctorate since 2005. She has taught courses at Rutgers since 2010, including twice the course she developed and refined on “Human Aggression”.

Rutgers apparently imagines that Amy could become proficient in the subject but not without me also becoming so at the same time. This is magical thinking at its best. In fact, Dr. Jacobson spent six months creating a superb course on the subject (without any of this information entering my brain) and then Rutgers summarily removed the course from her

for no good reason whatsoever. At no time has Rutgers discussed this course assignment with me. All of my letters and those of my lawyer, as well as personal meetings, have been completely disregarded, with the Vice President’s message being only the latest example.

It is also noteworthy that Rutgers chose to make its decision in the face of a number of letters sent in protest by biologists alerted to the original decision (see media connections below). People such as David Haig and Richard Wrangham (Harvard), Doron Zeilberger and Peter Morin (Rutgers), Lord Robert May (Oxford), Jon Seger (U of Utah), Bernhard Fink (U of Göttingen), Jon Wilkins (Ronin Institute) and Bill von Hippel (U of Queensland), most of whom wrote me and asked if I minded a letter sent on my behalf to the head of Rutgers, President Barchi ( I certainly did not and was touched by the content of each and every letter, a feeling evidently not shared by Rutgers.

Rutgers Launches a Fresh Wave of Attacks against Professor Trivers

Just when it seemed like Rutgers University would quiet itself down and let Dr Trivers go back to work—it launched a fresh series of attacks against him in October 2013, leading to suspension (with pay) on January 24, 2014, pending suspension without pay. He was immediately barred from teaching his two classes with over 230 students, thereby inflicting a substantial cost on him and his students. For good recent press summaries of Rutgers actions see especially, with more than 1500 comments. For a brief television segment and 5-minute interview. For a list of other press including television.

According to Dr Trivers: (continue reading)


This website provides useful information about Robert Trivers. Contact Info gives e-mail and mailing addresses. Publications permits all papers to be downloaded including obituaries of famous biologists. There are links to all Books including foreign translations. Most of the rest (e.g. Print, Radio and TV Interviews) deal with his recent book on Deceit and Self-deception (The Folly of Fools in the U.S.)