David Pietraszewski

Photo of David Pietraszewski

Assistant Professor

Research Area

Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology


David Pietraszewski (Pea-tra-zoo-ski) received his B.A. from Ithaca College and his Ph.D in Psychological and Brain Sciences from UCSB in 2009. He then took a postdoc at Yale University until 2014. He is currently a Research Scientist (the equivalent of assistant professor) at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Bildungsforschung) in Berlin, Germany. David will join the UCSB faculty in March 2024.


David uses principles of adaptation and natural selection—evolutionary psychology—to understand the nature of cognitive mechanisms. Much of his work focuses on social group representations, including discoveries about the malleable cognitive processes that cause us to categorize others by their race, the nature of conflict representations, and how we use social cues to make inferences and predictions. His work integrates social, cognitive, developmental, and evolutionary approaches, and involves studies with both adults and children. Current interests also include the cognitive mechanisms that psychologists and philosophers use to study the mind—the evolutionary psychology of psychology—and how understanding these mechanisms may aid the meta-science and reform movements in psychology.

Selected Publications

Pietraszewski, D. (under review). What a difference a mind makes: Humans’ intuitive psychology as the output of difference detecting mechanisms, and its implications for psychological science.

Pietraszewski D. (2022). Toward a computational theory of social groups: A finite set of cognitive primitives for representing any and all social groups in the context of conflict. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 45, e97: 1–64.

Pietraszewski, D., & Wertz, A. E. (2022). Why evolutionary psychology should abandon modularity. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 17, 465-490.

Pietraszewski, D. (2022). A (failed) attempt to falsify the alliance hypothesis of racial categorization: Racial categorization is not reduced when crossed with a non-alliance category. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 151, 2195-2203.

Pietraszewski, D. (2020). The evolution of leadership: Leadership and followership as a solution to the problem of creating and executing successful coordination and cooperation enterprises. The Leadership Quarterly, 31, 101299.

Pietraszewski, D. (2016). How the mind sees coalitional and group conflict: The evolutionary invariances of coalitional conflict dynamics. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37, 470-480.

Pietraszewski, D., & Shaw. A. (2015). Not by strength alone: Children’s conflict expectations follow the logic of the asymmetric war of attrition. Human Nature, 26, 44-72.

Pietraszewski, D., & German, T. C. (2013). Coalitional psychology on the playground: Reasoning about indirect social consequences in preschoolers and adults. Cognition, 126, 352-363.