Dr Arran Davis

Arran Davis

Postdoctoral Affiliate

General scientific interests

Broadly, and like my fellow researchers at ICEA, I am interested in using evolutionary theory to understand human behaviour.

My current academic interests include using methods from computer and network science to understand how social relationships affect health behaviours and well-being. In the private sector, I work as a data scientist for TextureAI, which uses techniques such as natural language processing and machine learning to understand the impact of web-based content on user behaviour.

During my MSc, I studied the cultural activities that lead to bonded, cooperative relationships among humans, focusing on coordinated, strenuous physical movements (such as dance and sport).

For my DPhil (PhD) I studied the effects of social relationships on human health and well-being. I conducted experimental, observational, and 'big data' studies to interrogate these effects scientifically. The results of these studies help to explain how social support and cohesion can reduce perceptions of pain and fatigue while enhancing performance during exercise.

Outside of academia, sports have been an important part of my life; I competed in track and field (javelin throw) for both Oxford University and South Dakota State University, where I was an NCAA Division I Track & Field Academic All-American.

Previous Education

DPhil (PhD) in Anthropology, University of Oxford (2019)

Master of Science (MSc) in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford (2014) with Distinction

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in global studies and Spanish, South Dakota State University (2012) with Honors College Distinction.

Winona Cotter High School (2007) with Honors


Full Blue in the javelin throw – Oxford University Blues Varsity Athletics (2016)

Clarendon Scholarship for DPhil Studies - University of Oxford (2014)

Dr. Nicola Knight Dissertation Prize in Quantitative Methods - Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford (2014)

Schultz-Werth Award for outstanding undergraduate research - South Dakota State University (2012)

NCAA Division I Track & Field Academic All-American (javelin throw - 3rd team) - Capital One Academic All-America (2012)


Davis, A., Hettinga, F. J., & Beedie, C. (in press). Social and environmental factors: people as placebos. European Journal of Sport Science.

Davis, A. J. Robin Dunbar, Human Evolution: Our Brains and Behavior (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 415 pages. ISBN: 9780190616786. Hardcover, Politics and the Life Sciences, 1-3.

Beedie, C., Benedetti, F., Barbiani, D., Camerone, E., Cohen, E., Coleman, D., Davis, A., Szabo, A. (2018). Consensus statement on placebo effects in sports and exercise: The need for conceptual clarity, methodological rigour, and the elucidation of neurobiological mechanisms. European Journal of Sport Science, 18(10), 1383-1389. doi:10.1080/17461391.2018.1496144

Davis, A. and Cohen, C. (2008). The Effects of Social Support on Strenuous Physical Exercise.

Davis, A. and Taylor, J. (2018). Social Cohesion. International Encyclopedia of Anthropology.

Davis, A., Taylor, J. & Cohen, E. (2016). How the buzz of dancing and sports bond us together. Aeon.

Davis, A., Taylor, J., & Cohen, E. (2015). Social Bonds and Exercise: Evidence for a Reciprocal Relationship. PLoS ONE 10(8), e0136705. 


Davis, A. (2017, November). Faster with friends: a ‘big data’ and observational study of parkrun. Poster presented at the Human Diversity and Adaptation Meeting. Oxford, United Kingdom.

Davis, A., Mac Carron, P., Cohen, E. (2017, April). Buffering effects of social cohesion and support during exercise. Plenary talk presented at the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Conference. Paris, France.

Taylor, J. and Davis, A. (2016, June). Social Bonds and Exercise: Evidence for a Reciprocal Relationship. Talk presented at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society Annual Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

Davis, A., Taylor, J., & Cohen E. (2015, March). Bonds, sweat and peers: the effects of group exercise on cooperation and performance. Poster presented at the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Conference. Helsinki, Finland.