Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Robert Lynch, Ph.D.


Robert Lynch, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Scholar: Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University
Faculty Affiliate: Population Research InstituteCenter for Human Ecology

I am a bio-cultural anthropologist, specializing in how biology, the environment and culture come together to shape human behavior and life history outcomes. I received my PhD at Rutgers advised by Robert Trivers doing research in Iceland on the effects of parental investment on life history outcomes such as reproduction and lifespan. My current research with the Shenk Research Group at Penn State is centered around seeking to understand how religion increases cooperation which can lead to higher fertility and greater social mobility. Previous research with Virpi Lummaa on the Human Life History Project in Finland sough to understand the impact of immigration on life history traits, while my time at the University of Missouri was spent analyzing Napoleon Chagnon’s extraordinary database of previously uncontacted Yanomamo Indians from the Amazon rainforest.

Current Work


  1. How do religious beliefs and practices impact parental social networks and thereby affect the wealth and health of their children when they reach adulthood?
  2. Which conditions at birth (e.g. parent’s education, wealth, genes, neighborhood, race, gender) best predict socioeconomic, lifespan and fertility outcomes in adulthood?
  3. What is the evolutionary purpose of laughter and humor?