Adam Maxwell Sparks

I study human behavior in light of evolutionary theory, currently as a postdoc at the University of Guelph Department of Psychology. I've also spent time at the University of California Los Angeles Department of Anthropology and Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture, and at McMaster University in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour.


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

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Dishakjian, V., Fessler, D.M.T., & Sparks, A.M. (in press). Live fast, die young, and sleep later: Life history strategy and human sleep behavior. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. [full open access via journal]

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: [full open access via journal] [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

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.