Peter Verbeek.Associate Professor/Program Director
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University Hall (UH) 3158
(205) 975-9276

Research and Teaching Interests: Causes, Mechanisms, Development, Function and Evolution of Peaceful Behavior; Species-atypical Aggressive and Peaceful Behavior; Human Relationship with Nature and Peace; Children’s Rights and Peace; Cultures of Peace

Office Hours: By appointment


  • BS, Eckerd College, Psychology
  • MA, Emory University, Psychobiology
  • PhD, Emory University, Psychobiology

My experiences as a young naturalist inspired me to try to understand the natural bases of peace. Yes, I observed aggression and violent death in nature, some of it rather unsettling, but my main impressions were that nature is wonderfully organized and remarkably peaceful. I thought, then as now, that we could learn something beneficial from peace in the natural world.

Peter Verbeek and his German Shepherds in Japan. Findings from past decades show that cooperation occurs at all levels of biological organization, from organelles within a single cell to mutualism between species. Evidence of peaceful behavior that optimizes kin and non-kin relations in social animals is rapidly accumulating. Explaining how and why such peaceful behavior has evolved and persists across a wide range of species now counts among the chief challenges for behavioral science. Studying the role of peaceful behavior in the survival and propagation of nonhuman animal life has direct significance for improving our understanding of the evolved abilities for peace in humans. I study behavioral processes and systems of peace at the levels of species, individuals, groups, communities, and cultures.

In nature, aggression and peace are not antithetical, but rather are linked in recurring relationships. It follows that to understand peace one has to understand aggression and vice versa. Both aggressive and peaceful behavior can be species-typical and species-atypical. Species-typical behavior is context-specific behavior that is commonly shown by members of the species, while species-atypical behavior is infrequently shown. Violence, as an example of species-atypical aggressive behavior, is escalated aggression that is out of inhibitory control. I study the development of species-atypical aggressive and peaceful behavior in a new animal model.

In my teaching and research my students are my partners in learning. If you are interested in the behavioral science of peace and aggression, I invite you to get in touch with me to explore how you and I can become partners as well.

  • Recent Courses
    • ANTH 101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
    • ANTH 353/653: Primatology
    • ANTH 497/697: Special Topics: Peace Ethology
  • Select Publications
    • Peter Verbeek and Benjamin A. Peters, eds., Behavioral Processes and Systems of Peace (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Publishers, forthcoming).
    • Peter Verbeek, "An Ethological Perspective on War and Peace," in War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, Douglas Fry, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2013).
    • Peter Verbeek, "Humanizing Conservation," Science 325 (2009):817.
    • Peter Verbeek, "Peace Ethology," Behaviour 145 (2008):1497-524.
    • Peter Verbeek, Toshitaka Iwamoto, Noboru Murakami, "Variable Stress-responsiveness in Wild Type and Domesticated Fighting Fish," Physiology & Behavior 93 (No. 1-2, 2008):83-88.
    • Peter Verbeek, Toshitaka Iwamoto, Noboru Murakami, "Differences in Aggression among Wild Type and Domesticated Fighting Fish are Context Dependent," Animal Behaviour 73 (2007):75-83.
    • Peter Verbeek, "Everyone’s Monkey: Primate Moral Roots," in Handbook of Moral Development, M. Killen and J. Smetana, eds. (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006).
    • Peter Verbeek and Frans B. M. de Waal, "The Primate Relationship with Nature: Biophilia as a General Pattern," in Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural and Evolutionary Investigations, Peter H. Kahn and Stephen R. Kellert, eds. (MIT Press, 2002).
    • Peter Verbeek and Frans B. M. de Waal, "Peacemaking Among Preschool Children," Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 7(No. 1, 2001):5-28.
  • Academic Distinctions & Professional Societies
    • Guest editor of Behaviour with Elisabetta Palagi
    • Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
  • Student Groups