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Dr. Christopher R. von Rueden
Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies

Dr. Christopher von Rueden looks at leadership through the lens of anthropology.

An anthropologist with expertise in small-scale societies, his research focuses on status hierarchy, including how status is acquired, the reproductive and health consequences of status, how status differences and leader-follower dynamics contribute to group performance, and the effects of demographic and ecological change on status hierarchy.

At the Jepson School, he teaches courses such as Leadership in Cultural and Historical Contexts and Leadership and the Social Sciences.

In addition to his work on status, Dr. von Rueden has published journal articles and presented on topics such as why humans differ in personality traits, and why we have such unique life histories among primates.

Dr. von Rueden conducts ethnographic fieldwork with the Tsimane’ forager-horticulturalists of lowland Bolivia. His work with the Tsimane’ is part of a larger project (the Tsimane’ Health and Life History Project) that investigates aging, health, and social behavior in a small-scale human population.

He is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute and the Culture and the Mind Project.  He is investigating social networks in traditional human societies with the Santa Fe Institute and studying the effects of culture on moral cognition with the Culture and the Mind Project.

Dr. von Rueden received a doctorate in anthropology, with an emphasis in cognitive science, from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Harvard University.

Selected Publications

von Rueden, C., S. Alami, H. Kaplan, & M. Gurven (2018). Sex differences in political leadership in an egalitarian society. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Lukaszewski, A., M. Gurven, C. von Rueden, & D. Schmitt. (2017). What explains personality covariation? A test of the socioecological complexity hypothesis. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 943-952.

von Rueden, C. Jaeggi, A. (2016). Men’s social status and reproductive success in 33 non-industrial societies: effects of subsistence, marriage system, and reproductive strategy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 113, 10824-10829.

Barrett, H.C., A. Bolyanatz, A. Crittenden, D. Fessler, S. Fitzpatrick, M. Gurven, J. Henrich, M. Kanovsky, G. Kushnick, A. Pisor, B. Scelza, S. Stich, C. von Rueden, W. Zhao, & S. Laurence (2016). Small-scale societies exhibit fundamental variation in the role of intentions in moral judgment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 113, 4688-4693.

Fessler, D.M.T., H.C. Barrett, M. Kanovsky, S. Stich, C. Holbrook, J. Henrich, A. Bolyanatz, M. Gervais, M. Gurven, G. Kushnick, A. Pisor, C. von Rueden, & S. Laurence. (2015). Moral parochialism and contextual contingency across seven disparate societies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282, 20150907.

von Rueden, C. & van Vugt, M. (2015). Leadership in small-scale societies: some implications for leadership evolution and practice. The Leadership Quarterly, 26, 978-990.

Glowacki, L. & C. von Rueden. (2015). Leadership solves collective action problems in small-scale societies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 370, 20150014.

von Rueden, C., Gavrilets, S., & Glowacki, L. (2015). Solving the puzzle of collective action through inter-individual differences: introduction to the theme issue. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, 370, 20150002.

von Rueden, C., A. Lukaszewski, & M. Gurven (2015). Adaptive personality calibration in a human society: effects of embodied capital on prosocial traits. Behavioral Ecology, 26, 1071-1082.

von Rueden, C., M. Gurven, H. Kaplan, & J. Stieglitz. (2014). Leadership in an egalitarian society. Human Nature, 25, 538-566.

von Rueden, C., B. Trumble, M. Emery Thompson, J. Stieglitz, P. Hooper, A. Blackwell, H. Kaplan, & M. Gurven. (2014). Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 1, 122-133.

Gurven, M., C. von Rueden, M. Massenkoff, H. Kaplan, & M. Lero Vie. How universal is the Big Five? Testing the Five-Factor Model of personality variation among forager-farmers in the Bolivia Amazon. (2013). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 354-370.

von Rueden, C., M. Gurven, & H. Kaplan. Why do men seek status? Fitness payoffs to dominance and prestige. (2011). Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278, 2223-2232.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M., S. Bowles, T. Hertz, A. Bell, J. Beise, G. Clark, I. Fazzio, M. Gurven, K. Hill, P. Hooper, W. Irons, H. Kaplan, D. Leonetti, B.Low, F. Marlowe, R. McElreath, S. Naidu, D. Nolin, P. Piraino, R. Quinlan, E. Schniter, R. Sear, M. Shenk, E.A. Smith, C. von Rueden, & P. Wiessner. (2009). Intergenerational wealth transmission and the dynamics of inequality in small-scale societies. Science, 326, 682-688.

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara 2011
M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara 2007
B.A., Harvard University 2001
Contact Information
235 Jepson Hall
(804) 287-6098
(804) 287-6062 (Fax)
Areas of Expertise
Status Hierarchy
Leader Emergence in Task Groups
Evolution of Cooperation and Morality
Social Gradient of Health
Small-scale Societies
Origins of Personality Differences