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Anthony C. Lopez, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs
Washington State University, Vancouver

Contact Information:
Office: Multimedia (VMMC) 202X
Office Hours: By appointment
Ph.D. Political Science

Brown University

M.A. Global Finance, Trade & Economic Integration
University of Denver, Korbel School of International Studies

B.A. Political Science
Pitzer College

Subfield Specializations: Political Psychology & International Relations

Research Areas

My research examines the psychology of war, and I approach the many puzzles of war from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing explicitly on theory and evidence from anthropology, psychology, history, economics and evolutionary biology. Current areas of research include:

  • The evolution of warfare: What are the historical and evolutionary origins of human inter-group violence? How has the nature and practice of warfare changed over the many centuries since its emergence, and what explains those changes? Can it be said, that warfare is in some way a part of ‘human nature’?
  • Offense-defense distinctions in war: What is the fundamental distinction between attack and defense? Why is it so difficult for groups (tribes, states, etc.) to effectively distinguish between defensive and offensive weaponry? Do contexts of attack and defense activate distinct neuropsychological systems in humans for reasoning and behavior?
  • Revenge, deterrence, and the uses of force: Why is the thirst for revenge sometimes so powerful, yet at other times we are keen to forgive? How is it that a major deterrent of war among nation-states (the prospect of nuclear war) rests upon a fundamental irrationality; namely, the belief that states are willing to seek nuclear retaliation after the first strike of another?
  • Leader-follower dynamics: How do leaders organize collective action, particularly in contexts of warfare? Why and when should anyone follow them? Do leaders always prioritize group interests, and when don’t they? When and how do leaders engage in domestic manipulation in order to facilitate attacks against foreign targets?
  • The role of emotions in violence (e.g. anger vs. hatred): Why are some communities locked in “struggles to the death” while at other times, limited strategic objectives are satisfactory? Under what contexts do we have “respect for the adversary” versus preferring the adversary’s death at all costs? Is there such a thing as the “warrior’s code”?
  • Political extremism and recruitment in violent political organizations: What makes a group worthy of the title “extremist,” and why and when do such groups appeal to individuals who may even live thousands of miles away? What is the role of identity and ideology in the formation and longevity of groups generally, but extremist groups specifically? What compels an individual to make the ultimate sacrifice for their group?
    • Select publications:
      • Lopez, A.C. and Hammad Sheikh. (forthcoming) “Extremism in Historical and Evolutionary Perspective.” Public forum hosted by the Evolution Institute, with contributions by leading thinkers on the topic.
  • The evolutionary origins of political behavior: What does our long evolutionary history as a species tell us about the ways in which we engage in politics? Are we, as Aristotle suggested, ‘political animals’?

Publication List:

Lopez, A.C. and Hammad Sheikh. (forthcoming) “Extremism in Historical and Evolutionary Perspective.” Public forum hosted by the Evolution Institute, with contributions by leading thinkers on the topic.

Lopez, A.C. (forthcoming). “The evolution of collective violence and the historical emergence of warfare.” In Jane Ireland, Carol Ireland, Michael Lewis, and Anthony C. Lopez, eds. International Handbook of Collective Violence. Routledge.

Sell, Aaron N. and Anthony C. Lopez. (forthcoming). “Emotional underpinnings of war: An evolutionary analysis of anger and hatred.” In Jane Ireland, Carol Ireland, Michael Lewis, and Anthony C. Lopez, eds. International Handbook of Collective Violence. Routledge.

Lopez, A.C. 2019. “The importance of raiding ecology and sex differences in offensive and defensive war.” Commentary on De Dreu and Gross. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Lopez, A.C. 2019. “Making ‘my’ problem ‘our’ problem: Warfare as collective action, and the role of leader manipulation.” The Leadership Quarterly.

Lopez, A.C. 2017. “The Evolutionary Psychology of War: Offense and Defense in the Adapted Mind.” Evolutionary Psychology 15(4).

Lopez, A.C. & Dominic Johnson. 2017. “The Determinants of War in International Relations.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

McDermott, Rose, A.C. Lopez & Pete Hatemi. 2017. “‘Blunt Not the Heart, Enrage It’: The Psychology of Revenge and Deterrence.” Texas National Security Review 1 (October).

Definition and Explanation in the Social Sciences: The Case of Gun Violence.” White Paper, November 2017.

Does Conflict Drive Cooperation?” Evolution: This View of Life August 2, 2017.

Conditions Required for Evolution of Warfare Adaptations.” In Shackelford and Weekes-Shackelford, Eds. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. 2017

McDermott, Rose, A.C. Lopez & Pete Hatemi. 2016. “An Evolutionary Approach to Political Leadership.” Security Studies 25(4): 677-698.

Lopez, A.C. 2016. “The Evolution of War: Theory and Controversy.” International Theory. 8(1): 97-139.

The Ends of War: Human Evolution and the Origins of Inter-Group Violence.” (With Dominic Johnson) Evolution: This View of Life March 4, 2016.

Errors, Interests, and Values: Why Better Advocacy May Produce Little Change.” Commentary on Peter J. Richerson. The Social Evolution Forum February 12, 2016.

A Christmas Truce in the Study of War.” Evolution: This View of Life November 18, 2015.

Why Evolution Made Forgiveness Difficult.” Berkeley: The Greater Good. March 24, 2015.

Lopez, A.C. 2014. “The Hawkish Dove: Evolution and the Logic of Political Behavior.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 43(1): 66-91.

Adaptations for Territoriality and the False Residency Problem. A Commentary on Johnson and Toft.” 2014. Cliodynamics 5(1): 87-122.

Lopez, A.C. 2012. “The Science of War, and the War Over Human Nature.” The Evolution Institute. June 6.

Lopez, A.C. & Rose McDermott. 2012. “Adaptation, Heritability, and the Emergence of Evolutionary Political Science,” Political Psychology 33(3): 343-362.

“Neurobiology of Aggression: Punishment and Reward.” White Paper, U.S. Department of Defense. 2012.

Lopez, A.C., Rose McDermott, & Michael Bang Petersen. 2011. “States in Mind: Evolution, Coalitional Psychology, and International Politics.” International Security 36(2): 48-83.

Rose McDermott & A.C. Lopez. 2011. “Psychology and Constructivism: Uneasy Bedfellows?” In Vaughn Shannon and Paul A. Kowert, eds. Psychology and Constructivism in International Relations: An Ideational Alliance. Michigan University Press.

Evolution, Coalitional Psychology, and War.” H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable on Biology and Security, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 30, 2010.