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Group Lehmann - Social evolution: cooperation & conflict from genes to culture


We develop mathematical and simulation models in order to study the evolution of social behaviors; in particular helping behaviors (cooperation, altruism, benevolence), harming behaviors (spite, warfare, malevolence, exploitation), and learning (trial-and error, innovativeness, social learning). We try to understand and disaggregate the role of several factors for the evolution of these behaviors, and focus on different level of analysis:

Individual decision process -- What types of learning rules evolve? How does individual learning and experience shape social behaviors? Does natural selection favor individual having rational preferences?

Life-history evolution -- What are the selection pressures on increased lifespan and cognition in the human lineage? Is this the result of an ecological or social pressure? Did lifespan increase because more learning was needed to achieve subsistence in hunter-gatherers?

Transition to large-scale human societies -- What drove the transition from small-scale societies centered on kinship to large-scale societies comprising exchange and interactions among untold number of individuals? What are the roles of language, institutions, warfare, and trade in this process?

In addition to these topics, we also work on some classical evolutionary theory questions: what is the generic selection pressure on phenotypic traits in demographically structured populations? How do selection, genetic drift, and mutation interact to shape the evolution of behavior?

Why models are useful

The world is a misty region.

The first explorers used unaided vision.

Mathematics is the lantern by which what was before dimly visible now looms up in firm, bold outlines.

The old phantasmagoria disappear.

We see better. 

We also see further.
            Irving Fisher (1892)

In press |  2015 |  2014 |  2013 |  2012 |  2011 |  2010 |  2009 |  2008 |  2007 |  2006 |  2005 |  2004 |  2003 |  2002 |  2001 |  Thèses (doctorat) | 

In Press
Dridi S., Lehmann L., In Press. Environmental complexity favors the evolution of learning. Behavioral Ecology .
Powers S., van Schaik C., Lehmann L., In Press. How institutions shaped the last major evolutionary transition to large-scale human societies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences .
Powers S.T., van Schaik C.P., Lehmann L., In Press. How institutions shaped the last major evolutionary transition to large-scale human societies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences . [Document]
Dridi S., Lehmann L., 2015. A model for the evolution of reinforcement learning in fluctuating games. Animal Behaviour 104 pp. 87-114. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science]
Lehmann L., Alger I., Weibull J., 2015. Does evolution lead to maximizing behavior? Evolution 69(7) pp. 1858-1873. [Document] [DOI]
Peña J., Nöldeke G., Lehmann L., 2015. Evolutionary dynamics of collective action in spatially structured populations. Journal of Theoretical Biology 382 pp. 122-136. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Dridi S., Lehmann L., 2014. On learning dynamics underlying the evolution of learning rules. Theoretical Population Biology 91 pp. 20-36. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Rousset F., 2014. Fitness, inclusive fitness, and optimization. Biology and Philosophy 29(2) pp. 181-185. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science]
Lehmann L., Rousset F., 2014. The genetical theory of social behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 369(1642) p. 20130357. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Mullon C., Lehmann L., 2014. The robustness of the weak selection approximation for the evolution of altruism against strong selection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(10) pp. 2272-2282. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Mullon C., Reuter M., Lehmann L., 2014. The evolution and consequences of sex-specific reproductive variance. Genetics 196(1) pp. 235-252. [Document] [DOI] [Pubmed]
Peña J., Lehmann L., Nöldeke G., 2014. Gains from switching and evolutionary stability in multi-player matrix games. Journal of Theoretical Biology 346 pp. 23-33. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Powers S.T., Lehmann L., 2014. An evolutionary model explaining the Neolithic transition from egalitarianism to leadership and despotism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 281(1791) p. 20141349. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Wakano J.Y., Lehmann L., 2014. Evolutionary branching in deme-structured populations. Journal of Theoretical Biology 351 pp. 83-95. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Wakano J.Y., 2013. The handaxe and the microscope: individual and social learning in a multidimensional model of adaptation. Evolution and Human Behavior 34(2) pp. 119-117. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science]
Lehmann L., Wakano J.Y., Aoki K., 2013. On optimal learning schedules and the marginal value of cumulative cultural evolution. Evolution 67(5) pp. 1435-1445. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Mc Ginty S.É., Lehmann L., Brown S.P., Rankin D.J., 2013. The interplay between relatedness and horizontal gene transfer drives the evolution of plasmid-carried public goods. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 280(1761) p. 20130400. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Powers S.T., Lehmann L., 2013. The co-evolution of social institutions, demography, and large-scale human cooperation. Ecology Letters 16(11) pp. 1356-1364. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Van Cleve J., Lehmann L., 2013. Stochastic stability and the evolution of coordination in spatially structured populations. Theoretical Population Biology 89 pp. 75-87. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Aoki K., Wakano J.Y., Lehmann L., 2012. Evolutionarily stable learning schedules and cumulative culture in discrete generation models. Theoretical Population Biology 81(4) pp. 300-309. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Rousset F., 2012. The evolution of social discounting in hierarchically clustered populations. Molecular Ecology 21(3) pp. 447-471. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Yeaman S., Schick A., Lehmann L., 2012. Social network architecture and the maintenance of deleterious cultural traits. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface 9(70) pp. 848-858. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Abbot P., Abe J., Alcock J., Alizon S., Alpedrinha J.A., Andersson M., Andre J.B., van Baalen M., Balloux F., Balshine S. et al., 2011. Inclusive fitness theory and eusociality. Nature 471(7339) pp. E1-E4; author reply E9-E10. [Document] [DOI] [Pubmed]
Aoki K., Lehmann L., Feldman M.W., 2011. Rates of cultural change and patterns of cultural accumulation in stochastic models of social transmission. Theoretical Population Biology 79(4) pp. 192-202. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Aoki K., Feldman M.W., 2011. On the number of independent cultural traits carried by individuals and populations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 366(1563) pp. 424-435. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Yeaman S., Bshary R., Lehmann L., 2011. The effect of innovation and sex-specific migration on neutral cultural differentiation. Animal Behaviour 82(1) pp. 101-112. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science]
Lehmann L., Rousset F., 2010. How life history and demography promote or inhibit the evolution of helping behaviours. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 365(1553) pp. 2599-2617. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Van Cleve J., Feldman M.W., Lehmann L., 2010. How demography, life history, and kinship shape the evolution of genomic imprinting. American Naturalist 176(4) pp. 440-455. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Feldman M.W., 2009. Coevolution of adaptive technology, maladaptive culture and population size in a producer-scrounger game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 276(1674) pp. 3853-3862. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Feldman M.W., Rousset F., 2009. On the evolution of harming and recognition in finite panmictic and infinite structured populations. Evolution 63(11) pp. 2896-2913. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Vogel V., Pedersen J.S., d'Ettorre P., Lehmann L., Keller L., 2009. Dynamics and genetic structure of Argentine ant supercolonies in their native range. Evolution 63(6) pp. 1627-1639. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Feldman M.W., 2008. War and the evolution of belligerence and bravery. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 275(1653) pp. 2877-2885. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Feldman M.W., Foster K.R., 2008. Cultural transmission can inhibit the evolution of altruistic helping. American Naturalist 172(1) pp. 12-24. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Foster K.R., Borenstein E., Feldman M.W., 2008. Social and individual learning of helping in humans and other species. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23(12) pp. 664-671. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Ravigné V., Keller L., 2008. Population viscosity can promote the evolution of altruistic sterile helpers and eusociality. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London series B 275(1645) pp. 1887-1895. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Reuter M., Lehmann L., Guillaume F., 2008. The spread of incompatibility-inducing parasites in sub-divided host populations. BMC Evolutionary Biology 8 p. 134. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Reuter M., Linklater J.R., Lehmann L., Fowler K., Chapman T., Hurst G.D., 2008. Adaptation to experimental alterations of the operational sex ratio in populations of Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution 62(2) pp. 401-412. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., 2007. The evolution of trans-generational altruism: kin selection meets niche construction. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20(1) pp. 181-189. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Keller L., Sumpter D.J., 2007. The evolution of helping and harming on graphs: the return of the inclusive fitness effect. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20(6) pp. 2284-2295. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Keller L., West S., Roze D., 2007. Group selection and kin selection: two concepts but one process. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104(16) pp. 6736-6739. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Keller L.F., Kokko H., 2007. Mate choice evolution, dominance effects, and the maintenance of genetic variation. Journal of Theoretical Biology 244(2) pp. 282-295. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Rousset F., Roze D., Keller L., 2007. Strong reciprocity or strong ferocity? A population genetic view of the evolution of altruistic punishment. American Naturalist 170(1) pp. 21-36. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Savolainen V., Lehmann L., 2007. Evolutionary biology: genetics and bisexuality. Nature 445(7124) pp. 158-159. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
De Meeûs T., Lehmann L., Balloux F., 2006. Molecular epidemiology of clonal diploids: a quick overview and a short DIY (do it yourself) notice. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 6(2) pp. 163-170. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Bargum K., Reuter M., 2006. An evolutionary analysis of the relationship between spite and altruism. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 19(5) pp. 1507-1516. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Keller L., 2006. The evolution of cooperation and altruism--a general framework and a classification of models. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 19(5) pp. 1365-1376. [Document] [DOI] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Perrin N., 2006. On metapopulation resistance to drift and extinction. Ecology 87(7) pp. 1844-1855. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Perrin N., Rousset F., 2006. Population demography and the evolution of helping behaviors. Evolution 60(6) pp. 1137-1151. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Bettencourt-Dias M., Rodrigues-Martins A., Carpenter L., Riparbelli M., Lehmann L., Gatt M.K., Carmo N., Balloux F., Callaini G., Glover D.M., 2005. SAK/PLK4 is required for centriole duplication and flagella development. Current Biology 15(24) pp. 2199-2207. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Reuter M., Helms K.R., Lehmann L., Keller L., 2004. Effects of brood manipulation costs on optimal sex allocation in social hymenoptera. American Naturalist 164(3) pp. E73-E82. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Balloux F., Lehmann L., 2003. Random mating with a finite number of matings. Genetics 165(4) pp. 2313-2315. [Document] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Balloux F., Lehmann L., de Meeûs T., 2003. The population genetics of clonal and partially clonal diploids. Genetics 164(4) pp. 1635-1644. [Document] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Perrin N., 2003. Inbreeding avoidance through kin recognition: choosy females boost male dispersal. American Naturalist 162(5) pp. 638-652. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Lehmann L., Perrin N., 2002. Altruism, dispersal, and phenotype-matching kin recognition. American Naturalist 159(5) pp. 451-468. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Reuter M., Balloux F., Lehmann L., Keller L., 2001. Kin structure and queen execution in the Argentine ant Linepithema humile. Journal of evolutionary Biology 14(6) pp. 954-958. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science]
Phd thesis
Fumagalli E., 2014. Information sharing and social network dynamics : a coevolutionary approach. 116 p., Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine, Lehmann L. (dir.).
Dridi S., 2013. Evolution of decision-making and learning under fluctuating social environments. Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine, Lehmann, L. (dir.).

Group leader


Graduate Students

Former Group Members



Laurent Lehmann
Office room: 3124
Phone: +4121 692 4183
Fax: +4121 692 4165

Administrative assistant
Office room: 3109
Phone: +4121 4260
Fax: +412 692 4165

Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne  - Switzerland  -  Tel. +41 21 692 41 60  -  Fax +41 21 692 41 65
Swiss University