Post-doctoral researcher in the evolution of religion and cooperation

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology unites scientists with various backgrounds (natural sciences and humanities) whose aim is to investigate the history of humankind from an interdisciplinary perspective with the help of comparative analyses of genes, cultures, cognitive abilities, languages and social systems of past and present human populations as well as those of primates closely related to human beings.

The Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology invites applications for a post-doctoral researcher in the evolutionary, cognitive, cultural and/or behavioral sciences of religion. The candidate will work under the direct supervision of Dr. Benjamin Purzycki (Senior Researcher).

The contract period is for 2 years. The salary is according to the German public service pay scale (TVöD). The appointment is based in Leipzig.

We are looking for a researcher with a background in methods and/or data analysis interested in working on a series of projects examining the cross-cultural co-evolution of religion and cooperation. We ultimately hope to develop ways of examining and explaining cross-cultural variation in the domain of religion. The central questions we’re asking are:

Do specific socioeconomic and ecological conditions contribute to the content of religious beliefs and the costs, timing, and placement of ritual behaviors? Do salient, locally specific problems feed into the forms religions take? If so, how? Does the form that religions take reduce the costs of corresponding problems?

The successful candidate will have opportunities to analyze already-collected data, take the lead in ongoing projects, write reports and collaborate on publications with the supervisor and his research network. The ideal candidate will have an eye toward field research and/or the development of longitudinal, cross-culturally applicable methods for field researchers.

The candidate is expected to:

  • Analyze extant data and write up results
  • Design and manage projects assessing the social and ecological conditions that predict religious beliefs and practice
  • Manage edited volumes


  • PhD degree in Anthropology, Psychology, Evolutionary Ecology/Biology, or another relevant field
  • Fluency in spoken and written English
  • Strong, demonstrated knowledge of data management and analysis of quantitative data and/or modelling
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills

Please address questions and completed applications electronically to Dr. Benjamin Purzycki with the subject heading “MPI POSTDOC APPLICATION”.
Applications should include (in a single pdf document):

1. a cover letter describing: a) how you meet the aforementioned requirements, b) how you might contribute to the general goals of the call for post-docs, and c) your preferred start date.

2. a CV with the contact information of at least three professional references who are prepared to write informative letters of support

All electronic applications received by October 31, 2017 will be considered. We interview suitable candidates via Skype by November 30, 2017 for a flexible starting date. Current doctoral students and post-docs finishing in 2018 are encouraged to apply.

The Max Planck Society wishes to increase the proportion of women in areas in which they are underrepresented; women are therefore explicitly encouraged to apply.

The Max Planck Society is committed to equal opportunities and to employing individuals with disabilities and explicitly encourages them to apply.

We look forward to receiving your completed application.