C Athena Aktipis

Assoc Professor
BDI Associate Faculty
Biodesign IVV
BDI Associate Faculty
Biodesign BSS

Location: TEMPE

Contact Information


  • Ph.D. Psychology, University of Pennsylvania 2008
  • B.A. Psychology, Reed College, Phi Beta Kappa 2002


Research Interests

Cooperation and Conflict Across Systems

My research investigates how cooperation and conflict shape systems from human sharing to cells within multicellular bodies.  I use computational modeling, laboratory experiments and fieldwork to better understand these processes and the general principles that operate across cooperative systems. My work addresses both cooperation on small-scales and the problems inherent in scaling-up cooperation to large interconnected complex systems. My contributions to cooperation theory include the Walk Away model of cooperation (showing that conditional movement favors cooperation) and the Need-based Transfers framework for resource sharing (which can outperform strict account-keeping).I have also worked on the applications of cooperation theory to cancer evolution including the role of resource conflict in the evolution of invasion and metastasis.

Department of Psychology Research LabCooperation and Conflict Lab


Athena Aktipis is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University and co-director of the Human Generosity Project, the first large-scale transdisciplinary project to investigate the interrelationship between biological and cultural influences on human generosity. Professor Aktipis also works on cooperation and conflict in biological systems including cancer evolution and the human microbiome. She is a cooperation theorist, social psychologist, theoretical evolutionary biologist, and cancer biologist who now works at the intersection of these fields. Aktipis is also the co-founder and director of Human and Social Evolution at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the University of California, San Francisco.