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Professor Nichola Raihani

Evolutionary Biologist and Patron of Humanists UK

Professor Nichola Raihani is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Professor in Evolution and Behaviour at University College London. Her group’s research focuses on the evolution of social behaviour in humans and non-human species.

Nichola studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and went on to do her PhD there, supervised by Professor Tim Clutton-Brock. This mostly involved chasing pied babblers, a highly social bird species, around the Kalahari Desert. She has since closely studied several social animal species, including apostlebirds (in the Australian outback), Damaraland mole-rats (in a broom cupboard in Pretoria) and the interspecific mutualism between cleaner fish and their clients on tropical coral reefs. More recently, she has also worked on cooperation and punishment in humans. Widely published in scientific journals, she won the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Psychology in 2018 for her research achievements, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology that same year.

She is also the author of The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World (Penguin, UK, 2021). That same year, she became the recipient of the Humanists UK Voltaire Lecture Medal, delivering a lecture on the role of cooperation in the human story. Nichola lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two sons, and spends a lot of time being needlessly competitive on her bike.


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