Dr David Gordon

Senior Lecturer

School of Health, Science and Wellbeing

I am a senior lecturer in research methods with a background in biological psychology and the evolution of human behaviour. After completing my PhD at the University of Exeter in 2014, I spent one year there as a post-doctoral researcher investigating pigeon cognition. I then spent two years at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland as a post-doctoral researcher investigating human conflict and cooperation. I joined the University of Chester as a lecturer in 2017, and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2020. I joined Staffordshire University in December 2022.

My primary interest and research area lies in the evolution of human behaviour. I mainly focus on costly punishment and the role that status may have played in its evolution, including how the relationship between these two phenomena may impact areas such as the evolution of leadership and formal hierarchies. My other areas of interest include costly signalling, the evolution of morality and ‘fairness’, and generally anything related to cooperation and social-cognition.

More recently I have begun to pursue two different areas of research. One concern risk and decision-making from a life-history theory perspective with a focus on behavioural responses to “existential” risks such as climate change. The second area concerns investigating why people believe and spread conspiracy theories.

Professional memberships and activities

  • Chartered member of the British Psychological Society
  • Member of the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society
  • Member of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association 

Academic qualifications

  • Phd, “Shadow of the leviathan: the role of dominance in the evolution of costly punishment”, University of Exeter
  • MSc in Evolutionary Psychology, University of Liverpool
  • PGCert in learning and teaching in Higher education, University of Chester
  • BSC in Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University


  • Evolution and human behaviour
  • Research methods and statistics
  • Behavioural economic games

Research interests

  • Evolution and human behaviour
  • Cooperation and pro-social behaviour
  • Fairness and inequality
  • Life-history theory and decision making
  • Belief in conspiracy theories



  • Research methods and statistics
  • Biological psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Independent research projects


Gordon, D. S. (2021). Extrinsic and Existential Mortality Risk in Reproductive Decision-Making: Examining the Effects of COVID-19 Experience and Climate Change Beliefs. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(2294). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.644600

Gordon, D. S., & Puurtinen, M. (2021). High cooperation and welfare despite—and because of—the threat of antisocial punishments and feuds. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(7), 1373-1386. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001004

Gordon, D. S, & Lea, S. E. G. (2016). Who punishes? The status of punishers affects the perceived success of, and indirect benefits from, ‘moralistic’ punishment, Evolutionary Psychology, 14(3), 1474704916658042. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474704916658042

Gordon, D. S, Madden, J. R. & Lea, S. E. G. (2014). Both loved and feared: third party punishers are view as formidable and likeable, but these reputational benefits may only be open to dominant individuals. PLoS ONE, 9(10), e110045. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0110045

Gordon, D. S., & Platek, S. (2009). Trustworthy? The Brain knows: Implicit neural responses to faces that vary in dark triad personality characteristics and trustworthiness. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 3(3), 182-200. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0099323

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021