Adam Maxwell Sparks

I study human behavior in light of evolutionary theory, currently as a postdoc at UCLA in the Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture and Department of Anthropology.


Our benevolent overlords have compiled their own dossier of my activities and influence.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Sparks, A. M., Fessler, D. M.T., & Holbrook, C. (2019). Elevation, an emotion for prosocial contagion, is experienced more strongly by those with greater expectations of the cooperativeness of others. PLoS ONE. doi: [Manuscript, data, code, Supplement on PsyArXiv]

Fessler DMT, Sparks AM, Samore T, Holbrook C (2019). Does observing reciprocity or exploitation affect elevation, a mechanism driving prosociality? Evolutionary Human Sciences 1, e3, 1 - 11. [manuscript & supplement] [data, code materials]

Samore T., Fessler D.M.T., Holbrook C., Sparks A.M. (2018) Electoral fortunes reverse, mindsets do not. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208653. [full open access]

Barclay, P., Mishra, S., & Sparks, A.M. (2018). State-dependent risk-taking. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285, 20180180. doi:10.1098/rspb.2018.0180 [manuscript]

Pollack, J.,* Holbrook, C.,* Fessler, D.M.T., Sparks, A.M., & Zerbe, J.G. (2018). May God guide our guns: Visualized supernatural aid heightens team confidence in a paintball battle simulation. Human Nature 29, 311-327. (* equal authorship.) [manuscript]

Sparks, A.M., Fessler, D.M.T., Chan, K.Q., Ashokkumar, A., and Holbrook, C. (2018) Disgust as a mechanism of decision making under risk: Illuminating sex differences and individual risk-taking correlates of disgust propensity. Emotion 18, 942-958. doi:10.1037/emo0000389 [manuscript] [supplement] [ data, code, etc ] [fancy pdf for super official research purposes only]

Mishra, S., Barclay, P., & Sparks, A. (2017). The relative state model: Integrating need-based and ability-based pathways to risk-taking. Personality and Social Psychology Review 21, 176-198. doi:10.1177/1088868316644094 [paper]

Sparks, A., Burleigh, T. & Barclay, P. (2016). We can see inside: Accurate prediction of Prisoner's Dilemma decisions in announced games following a face-to-face interaction. Evolution and Human Behavior 37, 210-216. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.11.003 [paper, data, analysis code, materials] or [open access via journal: paper, data, analysis code, materials]

Sparks, A. & Barclay, P. (2015). No effect on condemnation of short or long exposure to eye images. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science. doi:10.5178/lebs.2015.35 [paper] or [open access via journal to paper, data, supplement]

Sparks, A., & Barclay, P. (2013). Eye images increase generosity, but not for long: the limited effect of a false cue. Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (5), 317-322. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.05.001 [paper], [supplement], [data], [data guide]

Other publications

Rotella, A., Sparks, A. M., & Barclay, P. (2020). Feelings of obligation are valuations of signaling-mediated social payoffs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E85. [commentary] doi:10.1017/S0140525X19002322

Kafashan, S., Sparks, A., Rotella, A., & Barclay, P. (2016). Why Heroism Exists: Evolutionary Perspectives on Extreme Helping. In S.T.Allison, G.R.Goethals, & R.M.Kramer (Eds.) The Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership, pp. 36-57. Routledge. [chapter]

Kafashan, S.,* Sparks, A.,* Griskevicius, V., & Barclay, P. (2014). Prosocial behaviour and social status. In J. T. Cheng, J. L. Tracy, & C. Anderson (Eds.) The Psychology of Social Status, pp. 139-158. New York, NY: Springer. (* equal authorship.) [chapter]

Sparks, A., Barclay, P. & Mishra, S. (2013). Fundamental freedoms and the psychology of threat, bargaining, and inequality. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (05), 500-501. [commentary]

In prep / under review / in revision


Samore, T., Fessler, D. M. T., Sparks, A. M., & Holbrook, C. (2020, August 8). Of Pathogens and Party Lines: Social Conservatism Positively Associates with COVID-19 Precautions among Democrats but not Republicans. [preprint link]

Sparks, A. M., Fessler, D. M., & Zinsser, M. (2019, October 7). Exploring the Roles of Conformity, Hazard, and Convenience in Risk Mitigation Decisions: An Observational Study of Helmet Use Among Bicyclists and E-Scooter Riders in Los Angeles During Two Natural Experiments. [preprint link] [Manuscript, data, code, Supplement on PsyArXiv]

Preprint not yet available

Dishakjian, V., Fessler, D.M.T., & Sparks, A.M. Live Fast, Die Young, and Sleep Later: Life History Strategy and Human Sleep Behavior.

Kupfer, T.R., Fessler, D.M.T., Wu, B., Hwang, T., Sparks, A.M., Alas, S., Samore, T., Lal, V., Sakhamuru, T., & Holbrook, C. The skin crawls, the stomach turns: Ectoparasites and pathogens elicit distinct defensive responses in humans.

Rotella, A.,Sparks, A., Mishra, S., & Barclay, P. (revise and resubmit). Individual differences in social value orientation, observation, and the ‘watching eyes effect’: An attempted replication and extension.

Sparks, A.M., Tiokhin, L., Wu, B., Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C. & Ojigho, D. Preliminary studies of elevation—a prosocial emotion—in West Sumatra, Ghana, and China.

Song Hing, L., Stamarski, C.S., Yip, C.A., van der Werf, D., Mishra, S., Iacocca, R., Garcia, D., & Sparks, A.M. The price we pay: Adverse effects of too much inequality.

Sparks, A.M., Burleigh, T. & Barclay, P. Expressing disapproval maintains public goods contributions, but not for long: The limited effect of an empty threat.