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Peter Verbeek

Associate Professor/Program Director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
University Hall (UH) 3158
(205) 975-9276

Research and Teaching Interests: Causes, mechanisms, development, function, and evolution of peaceful behavior; Species-typical and species-atypical aggressive and peaceful behavior; Bystander roles in peace and conflict; Peace and environmental sustainability; The bond between humans and dogs; Children’s rights; 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.

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 is a chief challenge for behavioral science. Studying the role of peaceful behavior in the survival and propagation of other than human 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 we need 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.

In my teaching and research my students and I are 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 in learning as well.

Scholars @ UAB Profile

  • Recent Courses
    • ANTH 104. Introduction to peace studies
    • ANTH 402/509. Methods in peace and human rights research
    • ANTH 417. Anthropology of peoples and dogs
    • ANT 413/513. Peace and environmental sustainability
    • ANT 407/517. 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
    • Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
  • Student Groups