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Dr Tim Fawcett

Dr Tim Fawcett

co-Director of Education, Senior Lecturer


 +44 1392 725273

 Washington Singer 104


Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4QG, UK


I study the evolution of animal behaviour using a combination of mathematical and computational modelling, behavioural experiments (on humans and other animals) and analysis of large datasets. After a PhD in Zoology at the University of Cambridge I worked as a postdoc in the Netherlands, Canada and the UK, before moving to Exeter in 2015. I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB).

Broad research specialisms:

  • Animal behaviour
  • Evolution
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Theoretical biology


PhD in Zoology, University of Cambridge (2003)
BSc (Hons) in Zoology, University of Bristol (1998)


  • Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter, UK (2015 onwards)
  • Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol, UK (2014-15)
  • Research Fellow, University of Bristol, UK (2010-14)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Montreal, Canada (2009-10)
  • Teaching Fellow in Theoretical Biology, University of Bristol, UK (2004-5)
  • Postdoctoral Researcher & Lecturer in Biostatistics, University of Groningen, the Netherlands (2003-9)


Research group links

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Research interests

I study social adaptation—the evolutionary and developmental processes that shape social interactions between animals. Most of my work focuses on the contexts of aggression and mate choice. At the moment I’m particularly interested in how past experiences affect social behaviour, via evolved psychological mechanisms. My research combines mathematical and computational modelling, behavioural experiments (on humans and other animals) and analysis of large datasets. For more information see my personal website,


Research projects

  • The evolution of behavioural development in social animals
  • Adaptive decision-making under uncertainty
  • The evolution of psychological states
  • Strategies for effective communication of theory in the life sciences


2010 European Commission
Adaptive Strategies for Mate Choice and Aggression in the Face of Uncertainty
(Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship)

2006 Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
The Evolution of Flexible Mating Strategies (Research Grant)

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Journal articles

Langford J, Fawcett T, Price E, Bradley D, Wilson A, Croft D (In Press). Bio-logging reveals heritable patterns of natural behaviours in sheep. Proceedings of 2023 IEEE International Workshop on Measurements and Applications in Veterinary and Animal Sciences, IEEE Catalog Number CFP23CX4-USB, 182-187.
Padget RFB, Fawcett TW, Darden SK (2023). Guppies in large groups cooperate more frequently in an experimental test of the group size paradox. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 290, 20230790-20230790. Abstract.
Wilde JA, Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Darden SK, Tregenza T, Fawcett TW (2023). Signalling males increase or decrease their calling effort according to the proximity of rivals in a wild cricket. Animal Behaviour, 203, 53-61. Abstract.
Hollon SH, García-Ruiz I, Veen T, Fawcett TW (2023). The evolution of dynamic and flexible courtship displays that reveal individual quality. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 77(2). Abstract.
Taborsky B, Kuijper B, Fawcett TW, English S, Leimar O, McNamara JM, Ruuskanen S (2022). An evolutionary perspective on stress responses, damage and repair. Hormones and Behavior, 142, 105180-105180.
Price E, Langford J, Fawcett TW, Wilson AJ, Croft DP (2022). Classifying the posture and activity of ewes and lambs using accelerometers and machine learning on a commercial flock. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 251, 105630-105630.
Knoch S, Whiteside MA, Madden JR, Rose PE, Fawcett TW (2022). Hot-headed peckers: thermographic changes during aggression among juvenile pheasants (<i>Phasianus colchicus</i>). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377(1845). Abstract.
Di Giovanni J, Fawcett TW, Templeton CN, Raghav S, Boogert NJ (2022). Urban gulls show similar thermographic and behavioral responses to human shouting and conspecific alarm calls. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10 Abstract.
Taborsky B, English S, Fawcett TW, Kuijper B, Leimar O, McNamara JM, Ruuskanen S, Sandi C (2021). Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Stress Responses. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 36(1), 39-48.
Leaver LA, Ford S, Miller CW, Yeo MK, Fawcett TW (2020). Learning is negatively associated with strength of left/right paw preference in wild grey squirrels (<i>Sciurus carolinensis</i>). LEARNING & BEHAVIOR, 48(1), 96-103.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Ewans J, Lawrence A, Radford AN (2019). Attractiveness is positively related to World Cup performance in male, but not female, biathletes. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 30(5), 1436-1442.  Author URL.
Radford AN, Schindler S, Fawcett TW (2019). Between-group attack and defence in an ecological setting: Insights from nonhuman animals. BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES, 42  Author URL.
Cenni C, Fawcett TW (2018). The coevolution of juvenile play-fighting and adult competition. ETHOLOGY, 124(5), 290-301.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, Houston AI, McNamara JM (2018). Trust your gut: using physiological states as a source of information is almost as effective as optimal Bayesian learning. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 285(1871).  Author URL.
Rosenstrom T, Fawcett TW, Higginson AD, Metsa-Simola N, Hagen EH, Houston AI, Martikainen P (2017). Adaptive and non-adaptive models of depression: a comparison using register data on antidepressant medication during divorce. PLOS ONE, 12(6).  Author URL.
English S, Fawcett TW, Higginson AD, Trimmer PC, Uller T (2016). Adaptive Use of Information during Growth can Explain Long-Term Effects of Early Life Experiences. AMERICAN NATURALIST, 187(5), 620-632.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW (2016). Comment on 'Are physicists afraid of mathematics?'. NEW JOURNAL OF PHYSICS, 18  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Frankenhuis WE (2015). Adaptive explanations for sensitive windows in development. FRONTIERS IN ZOOLOGY, 12  Author URL.
Trimmer PC, Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2015). Adaptive learning can result in a failure to profit from good conditions: implications for understanding depression. Evol Med Public Health, 2015(1), 123-135. Abstract.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, Houston AI (2015). Evolution of a flexible rule for foraging that copes with environmental variation. Current Zoology, 61(2), 303-312. Abstract.
Mallpress DEW, Fawcett TW, Houston AI, McNamara JM (2015). Risk Attitudes in a Changing Environment: an Evolutionary Model of the Fourfold Pattern of Risk Preferences. PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW, 122(2), 364-375.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Marshall JAR, Higginson AD (2015). The evolution of mechanisms underlying behaviour. Current Zoology, 61(2), 221-225.
Houston AI, Fawcett TW, Mallpress DEW, McNamara JM (2014). Clarifying the relationship between prospect theory and risk-sensitive foraging theory. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(6), 502-507. Abstract.
Radford AN, Fawcett TW (2014). Conflict between groups promotes later defense of a critical resource in a cooperatively breeding bird. Current Biology, 24(24), 2935-2939. Abstract.
van den Berg P, Fawcett TW, Buunk AP, Weissing FJ (2014). Conflict over resources generates conflict over mate choice: reply to Smaldino and Newson. EVOLUTION AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR, 35(2), 157-159.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Fallenstein B, Higginson AD, Houston AI, Mallpress DEW, Trimmer PC, McNamara JM (2014). The evolution of decision rules in complex environments. TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES, 18(3), 153-161.  Author URL.
McNamara JM, Fawcett TW, Houston AI (2013). An Adaptive Response to Uncertainty Generates Positive and Negative Contrast Effects. SCIENCE, 340(6136), 1084-1086.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Mowles SL (2013). Assessments of fighting ability need not be cognitively complex. ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR, 86(5), E1-E7.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Hamblin S, Giraldeau LA (2013). Exposing the behavioral gambit: the evolution of learning and decision rules. Behavioral Ecology, 24(1), 2-11. Abstract.
van den Berg P, Fawcett TW, Buunk AP, Weissing FJ (2013). The evolution of parent-offspring conflict over mate choice. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(6), 405-411. Abstract.
Fawcett TW, Hamblin S, Giraldeau L-A (2013). We can study how mechanisms evolve without knowing the rules of chess or the workings of the brain. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 24(1), 14-15.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, Trimmer PC, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2012). Generalized Optimal Risk Allocation: Foraging and Antipredator Behavior in a Fluctuating Environment. AMERICAN NATURALIST, 180(5), 589-603.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Higginson AD (2012). Heavy use of equations impedes communication among biologists. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 109(29), 11735-11739.  Author URL.
van Dijk RE, Szekely T, Komdeur J, Pogany A, Fawcett TW, Weissing FJ (2012). Individual variation and the resolution of conflict over parental care in penduline tits. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 279(1735), 1927-1936.  Author URL.
Houston AI, Trimmer PC, Fawcett TW, Higginson AD, Marshall JAR, McNamara JM (2012). Is optimism optimal? Functional causes of apparent behavioural biases. BEHAVIOURAL PROCESSES, 89(2), 172-178.  Author URL.
van der Meij L, Almela M, Buunk AP, Fawcett TW, Salvador A (2012). Men with elevated testosterone levels show more affiliative behaviours during interactions with women. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 279(1726), 202-208.  Author URL.
Radford AN, Fawcett TW (2012). Negotiating a stable solution for vigilance behaviour. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 279(1743), 3633-3634.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Higginson AD (2012). Reply to Chitnis and Smith, Fernandes, Gibbons, and Kane: Communicating theory effectively requires more explanation, not fewer equations. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 109(45), E3058-E3059.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2012). When is it adaptive to be patient? a general framework for evaluating delayed rewards. BEHAVIOURAL PROCESSES, 89(2), 128-136.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Boogert NJ, Lefebvre L (2011). Female assessment: cheap tricks or costly calculations?. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 22(3), 462-463.  Author URL.
Boogert NJ, Fawcett TW, Lefebvre L (2011). Mate choice for cognitive traits: a review of the evidence in nonhuman vertebrates. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 22(3), 447-459.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Kuijper B, Weissing FJ, Pen I (2011). Sex-ratio control erodes sexual selection, revealing evolutionary feedback from adaptive plasticity. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 108(38), 15925-15930.  Author URL.
Riebel K, Holveck MJ, Verhulst S, Fawcett TW (2010). Are high-quality mates always attractive? State-dependent mate preferences in birds and humans. Communicative and Integrative Biology, 3(3), 271-273. Abstract.
Carere C, Caramaschi D, Fawcett TW (2010). Covariation between personalities and individual differences in coping with stress: Converging evidence and hypotheses. CURRENT ZOOLOGY, 56(6), 728-740.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, van den Berg P, Weissing FJ, Park JH, Buunk AP (2010). Intergenerational conflict over grandparental investment. BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES, 33(1), 23-+.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Johnstone RA (2010). Learning your own strength: winner and loser effects should change with age and experience. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 277(1686), 1427-1434.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Bleay C (2009). Previous experiences shape adaptive mate preferences. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 20(1), 68-78.  Author URL.
Pollet TV, Fawcett TW, Buunk AP, Nettle D (2009). Sex-ratio biasing towards daughters among lower-ranking co-wives in Rwanda. BIOLOGY LETTERS, 5(6), 765-768.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Kuijper B, Pen I, Weissing FJ (2007). Should attractive males have more sons?. Behavioral Ecology, 18(1), 71-80. Abstract.
Fawcett TW, Kuijper B, Pen I, Weissing FJ (2007). Should attractive males have more sons?. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 18(1), 71-80.  Author URL.
Brown GR, Fawcett TW (2005). Sexual selection: Copycat mating in birds. CURRENT BIOLOGY, 15(16), R626-R628.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Johnstone RA (2003). Mate choice in the face of costly competition. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 14(6), 771-779.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Johnstone RA (2003). Optimal assessment of multiple cues. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 270(1524), 1637-1643. Abstract.
Fawcett TW, Skinner AMJ, Goldsmith AR (2002). A test of imitative learning in starlings using a two-action method with an enhanced ghost control. Animal Behaviour, 64(4), 547-556. Abstract.
Tuyttens FAM, Long B, Fawcett T, Skinner A, Brown JA, Cheeseman CL, Roddam AW, Macdonald DW (2001). Estimating group size and population density of Eurasian badgers Meles meles by quantifying latrine use. Journal of Applied Ecology, 38(5), 1114-1121. Abstract.

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External Engagement and Impact

Journal and book series Editorships and Editorial board membership

Editorial Board Member for Behavioral Ecology (2015 onwards)

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I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and, together with Hazel Mycroft, co-Director of Education for Psychology. I teach a mixture of courses in animal behaviour, statistics and general psychology:

  • PSYM201 Advanced Statistics (module leader)
  • PSY3449 Evolution of Social Behaviour & Social Organisation (module leader)
  • PSY1202 Introduction to Biological Psychology
  • PSY3444 Foundations of Human Behaviour
  • PSY3401 Psychology Research Project
  • PSYM210 Research Apprenticeship
  • PSYM205 Advances & Methods in Animal Behaviour
  • PSYM208 Animal Behaviour Research Skills
  • PSYM213 Current Research Issues in Animal Behaviour



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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Destiny Bradley (PhD candidate)
  • Laure Olivier (PhD candidate)
  • Becky Padget
  • Emily Price (PhD candidate)
  • Joe Wilde (PhD candidate)


  • Rachel Crisp (MSc by Research candidate)
  • Caitlin Searle (MSc by Research candidate)
  • Michelle Whitham Jones (PhD candidate)

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Office Hours:

Office Hours for Term 2 in 2023-24 are:

  • Mondays 13.00-14.00 (in person or on MS Teams)
  • Thursdays 10.00-11.00 (in person or on MS Teams)

Book a meeting HERE

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