Martha uses an evolutionary framework to understand human behaviours. Her primary focus is on the rituals underlying social cohesion and the ensuing cooperation and conflict emerging from tightly bonded groups.
Over the last five years this has focused on football ‘tribes’ of fans and hooligans across four continents. Martha’s doctorate at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, Oxford (2017), first analysed a particularly powerful form of group bonding - identity fusion - among Brazilian and British football fans and ‘hooligans’. She continues this work under the ‘Ritual Modes: Divergent modes of ritual, social cohesion, pro sociality, and conflict’ project, led by Professor Harvey Whitehouse.
With a broad background in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (MSc, University of Oxford, 2013) and Human Sciences (BSc Hons., University of Sussex, 2011), Martha’s research is inter-disciplinary. She uses psychological techniques and her anthropological training to answer questions relevant to scientists and social scientists alike.
While some self-sacrificial acts are beneficial to society, e.g. charitable donations or giving blood, others have distinctly hostile implications, e.g. sectarian or gang violence. Martha is developing intervention strategies that use football and other sports as a platform to (a) reduce violence, (b) reduce reoffending rates in prisons, and (c) increase social cohesion. Martha has field sites and collaborative laboratories in the UK, Australia, Brazil, and Indonesia.
Key Research Interests
Social cohesion and group bonding
Conflict and co-operation
Working with hard to access populations
Football fandom and ‘hooliganism’
Religion and Ritual
Reproductive strategies and mate choice
Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology; Evolutionary Psychology