Rob Spencer is a behavioural scientist with a background in behavioural ecology and evolutionary psychology. His research involves the development of game-theoretical models to understand behaviour between interdependent agents and the application of such models to real populations (Behavioural Game Theory). He is interested in decision-making and models of competition between individuals in non-human populations and decision making in social dilemmas within human populations.
He seeks to apply behavioural research to investigate environmental and conservation issues. Specifically, he is interested in: whether behaviour can be used as a leading indicator (early warning) of the presence of a conservation threat to a species or population; if the causes of a conservation threat can be inferred from the behaviours of animals or their competitor species; and whether behavioural research can be used to identify possible solutions or ways to manage conservation threats.
His research with human participants involves the use of economic games to understand decision-making around resources and the psychological traits, life history traits and environmental factors that mediate whether people engage in self-interested or cooperative behaviours.
Rob is a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology.
PhD, Middlesex University, 2017
MSc Evolutionary Psychology, Brunel University, 2012
Graduate Diploma Psychology, University of East London, 2009
BA(Hons.) History, University of East London, 1998
PSY3027 Evolutionary Approaches to Behaviour
PSY2004 Research Methods and Ethics in Psychology
PSY4011 Advanced Research Methods (MSc)
PSY3330 Undergraduate Dissertations
PSY1016 Research Methods and Deisgn in Psychology
MSc by Research in Evolutionary Behavioural Science (Project Supervisor)
Animal Behaviour: Applied Evolutionary Game Theory - Rob is investigating the application of models of Evolutionary Game Theory to populations of animals in complex environments. He is interested in whether behaviour can be used as a leading indicator of a conservation threat to a population of animals.
Behavioural Game Theory: Social Dilemmas - Social dilemmas capture situations where the benefits of individuals and social groups are not aligned. Rob is interested in the development of game-theoretical scenarios and game-theoretical models to understand how individuals behave when faced with social dilemmas. He seeks to test model predictions and equilibria using empirical data collected through economic games.
Coulson, M., Oskis, A., Spencer, R. & Gould, R.L. (2019). Tourism, Migration, and the Exodus to Virtual Worlds: Place Attachment in Massively Multiplayer Online Gamers, Psychology of Popular Media Culture.
Spencer, R. & Broom, M. (2018). A game-theoretical model of kleptoparasitic behaviour in an urban gull (Laridae) population. Behavioural Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arx125
Dickins, T.E., Neller, K. & Spencer, R. (2018). Clutch Size in Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) on Lundy. Journal of the Lundy Field Society.
Spencer, R., Russell, Y., Dickins, B.J. & Dickins, T.E. (2016). Kleptoparasitism in gulls Laridae at an urban and a coastal foraging environment: an assessment of ecological predictors, Bird Study, DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2016.1249821
Spencer, R. & Dickins, T.E. (2014.) Differences in aggression and nest behaviour between herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and lesser black backed gulls (Larus fuscus) on Lundy. Journal of the Lundy Field Society, 4, 85-104
Dickins, T.E., Pawson, C. & Spencer, R. (2011). Strategy and Rioting: Academic Letter. The Psychologist, 24, 11, 796-797.
Spencer, R. (2017). Kleptoparasitism in urban and coastal gulls. Invited blog post for the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU). Published online August 21st 2017 at https://www.bou.org.uk/blog-spencer-gull-kleptoparasitism/
Spencer, R. (2012). The missing unit of inheritance: Cultural Evolution’s elephant in the room. A review of Alex Mesoudi (2011) Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian theory can explain human culture and synthesize the social sciences. University of Chicago Press. Journal of evolutionary psychology, 10, 3, 149-153.
Dickins, T.E., King, R., Pawson, C. & Spencer, R. (2012). Online technical comment on: Riddihough, G., Chin, G., Culotta, E., Jasny, B., Roberts, L. & Vignieri, S. (2012). Human Conflict: Winning the peace, Science, Vol. 336, no. 6083, 818-819. URL https://comments.sciencemag.org%2fcontent%2f10.1126%2fscience.336.6083.818
Spencer, R. & Broom, M. Modelling kleptoparasitism in an urban gull (Laridae) population. Conference presentation at the Mathematical Modelling in Ecology & Evolution Conference 2017 (MMEE2017), at City, University of London, 10 – 12 July 2017.
Spencer, R. Applying game theory to kleptoparasitic foraging data from an urban gull (Laridae) population. Research presentation at the 4C (Conflict, Competition, Cooperation & Complexity) Modelling Project Workshop. City, University of London, 4 – 7 July 2017.
Spencer, R. Kleptoparasitism by gulls (Laridae) in urban and shoreline foraging environments. Talking poster presentation at the British Ornithologists Union (BOU) Conference on: Urban Birds: Pressures, processes and consequences, University of Leicester, 5-7 April 2016.
Spencer, R. Kleptoparasitism by gulls (Laridae) in urban environments. Conference presentation at the London Evolutionary Research Network (LERN) 2015 Conference, QMUL, 11 November 2015.
Spencer, R. & Clark, A. Behavioural differences between Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and Lesser Black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus) in an offshore environment. Poster presented at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) Easter Conference, Aberystwyth University 11-13 April 2012.
King, R., Spencer, R., Pawson, C., & Dickins, T.E. Reading the Riot Acts. Poster presented at the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association, Durham University, 25 – 28 March 2012.
Coulson, Mark and Oskis, Andrea and Spencer, Robert and Gould, Rebecca L. (2019) Tourism, migration, and the exodus to virtual worlds: place attachment in massively multiplayer online gamers. Psychology of Popular Media Culture . ISSN 2160-4134 (Published online first)
Dickins, Thomas E. and Neller, Kirsty and Spencer, Robert (2018) Clutch size in Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) on Lundy. Journal of the Lundy Field Society, 6 . pp. 35-54. ISSN 1758-3276
Spencer, Robert and Broom, Mark (2018) A game-theoretical model of kleptoparasitic behavior in an urban gull (Laridae) population. Behavioral Ecology, 29 (1). pp. 60-78. ISSN 1045-2249
Spencer, Robert (2017) An empirical and theoretical investigation of kleptoparasitic foraging behaviour in mixed-species aggregations of gulls (Laridae). PhD thesis, Middlesex University.
Spencer, Robert and Russell, Yvan I. and Dickins, Benjamin J. A. and Dickins, Thomas E. (2017) Kleptoparasitism in gulls Laridae at an urban and a coastal foraging environment: an assessment of ecological predictors. Bird Study, 64 (1). pp. 12-19. ISSN 0006-3657