Dr Arran Davis

arran davis web

Research Affiliate

Twitter: @Arran_Davis

General scientific interests

Broadly, and like my fellow researchers at the Institute of Human Sciences, I am interested in using
evolutionary theory to understand human behaviour.

My current academic interests focus on using methods from the psychological, computer, and network
sciences to understand how social relationships affect human health and well-being. I am currently
working on a ‘big data’ study that examines the effects of social integration on physical exercise
adherence and performance at parkrun; a free, weekly, community-based 5 km run that occurs at over
700 different locations across the UK. I have also conducted experimental and survey-based studies to
interrogate the effects of social environments on experiences and outcomes during physical exercise.

The results of these studies suggest that social support and cohesion can reduce perceptions of pain
and fatigue while enhancing performance during exercise. We situate these findings within a broad
evolutionary framework that views humans as a socially interdependent species in which fitness-relevant
homeostatic functions, including the buffering of pain and stress, are functionally tied to social
integration and support.

In the private sector, I am the Chief Data Scientist at Texture AI, a start-up which uses natural language
processing, inferential statistics, and machine learning to measure and predict behaviour and public
health outcomes using web-based content. Recently, we received an Innovate UK grant to use Twitter
data to both predict COVID-19 outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of pandemic-related public
health messaging.

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)

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

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


Davis, A. J., B. Crittenden and E. Cohen (2021). "Effects of social support on performance outputs and
perceived difficulty during physical exercise." Physiology & Behavior, 239, 113490.

Davis, A. J., F. Hettinga and C. Beedie (2020). "You don't need to administer a placebo to elicit a
placebo effect: Social factors trigger neurobiological pathways to enhance sports performance."
European Journal of Sport Science, 20(3): 302-312.

Davis, A. J. (2019). Robin Dunbar, Human Evolution: Our Brains and Behavior (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2016), 415 pages. ISBN: 9780190616786. 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., & Cohen, E. (2018). The Effects of Social Support on Strenuous Physical Exercise. Adaptive
Human Behavior and Physiology
, 4(2), 171-187.

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.