Assistant Professor

Kevin (Ze) Hong is a behavioral scientist who studies human behavior and culture from evolutionary and cognitive perspectives. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Grinnell College, a master’s degree in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in Human Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University. He worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Zhejiang University and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Macau and a research associate in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Research-wise, He uses methodologically diverse approaches (e.g., theoretical modeling, quantitative analysis of historical data, ethnographic fieldwork) to study human behavior and culture from rainmaking to gambling, with special attention paid to information processing at the individual level and information transmission at the population level. His publication appears in diverse journal venues such as Current Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Behavior and Brain Sciences, Human Nature, Human Ecology, Religion, Brain & Behavior, Journal of Theoretical Biology, and Cognitive Science. His current field sites include the Yi in southwest China and the Wa in China-Burma border where he focuses on the psychological and social factors that sustain divination and magic practices.

  • Ph.D., Human Evolutionary Biology,Harvard university, 03/2022
  • M.A., Human evolutionary Biology, Harvard university, 05/2018
  • M.A., Evolutionary Biology, University of Pennsylvania, 08/2016
  • B.A. (with honors), Biology , Grinnell college , 05/2014
  • Cultural Evolution
  • Evolutionary and Cognitive Psychology
  • Evolutionary and Cognitive Anthropology
  • The Cognitive Science of Religion
  • Theoretical and Simulation Models of Information Transmission Biases
  • Magic and Divination in Small-scale Societies
  • Quantitative Analysis of Historical Data
  • Peer-reviewed Articles

Hong, Z. & Chen, Y. Persuading the Emperors: A Quantitative Historical Analysis of Political Rhetoric in Traditional China. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, forthcoming.

Hong, Z. The Cultural Evolution of Games of Chance – a Historical Investigation of Chinese Gambling. Human Nature, in press.

Hong, Z. & Henrich, J. Instrumentality, Empiricism, and Rationality in Nuosu Divination. Religion, Brain & Behavior, forthcoming.

Hong, Z., Slingerland, E., & Henrich, J. Magic and Empiricism in Early Chinese Rainmaking – a Cultural Evolutionary analysis. Current Anthropology, 65(2), 343-363.

Hong, Z. & Henrich, J. The Cultural Evolution of Payoff Currencies and the Construction of Causal Theories. American Anthropologist, 126(1), 71-82.

Hong, Z. The Cognitive Origin and Cultural Evolution of Taboos in Human Societies. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, in press.

Hong, Z. Evolutionary Social Science – Past, Present and Future 演化社会科学 ——历史,现状和展望 (In Chinese). Social Research Methods Review 社会学方法评论, in press.

Hong, Z. & Zinin, S. (2023). The Psychology and Social Dynamics of Fetal Sex Prognostication in China: Evidence from Historical Data. American Anthropologist, 125(3), 519-531.

Hong, Z. (2023). The Evolution of Inclusive Folk Biological Labels and the Cultural Maintenance of Meaning. Human Nature, 34, 177-201.

Hong, Z. (2023). The Cultural Evolution of Medical Technologies: A Model of Sequential Treatment in the Medical Setting. Human Nature, 34, 64–87.

Hong, Z. (2022). Ghost, Divination, and Magic among the Nuosu: An Ethnographic Examination from Cognitive and Cultural Evolutionary Perspectives. Human Nature, 33, 349-379.

Hong, Z. (2022). Combining Conformist and Payoff Bias in Cultural Evolution: An Integrated Model for Human Decision Making. Human Nature, 33, 463-484.

Hong, Z. (2022). A Cognitive Account of Manipulative Sympathetic Magic. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(3), 254-270. DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2021.2006294

Hong, Z. (2022). Dream Interpretation from a Cognitive and Cultural Evolutionary Perspective: The Case of Oneiromancy in Traditional China. Cognitive Science, 46: e13088.

Xiao, E., Jin, J., Hong, Z., & Zhang, J. (2022). The Relationship Between Children and Their Maternal Uncles: A Unique Parenting Mode in Mosuo Culture. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 873137-873137.

Henrich, J., Blasi, D., Curtin, C., Davis, H., Hong, Z., Kelly, D., & Kroupin, I. (2022). A Cultural Species and its Cognitive Phenotypes. Review of Philosophy and Psychology. 14(2), 349-386.  

Hong, Z. & Henrich, J. (2021). The Cultural Evolution of Epistemic Practices – the Case of Divination. Human Nature, 32, 622-651.

Hong, Z. (2021). The Population Dynamics of the Placebo Effect and Its Role in the Evolution of Medical Technology. Human Ecology, 50(1), 11-12.

Hong, Z. (2020). Modelling the On-going Natural Selection of Educational Attainment in Contemporary Societies. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 493, 110210.

  • Invited Commentaries and Encyclopedia Entries

Hong, Z. Universal Applicability of the Make-Believe Theory of Religion: A Call for More Evidence and Caution. Religion, Brain & Behavior, forthcoming. (Book commentary)

Hong, Z. Divination. Encyclopedia of Religious Psychology and Behavior. In T. Shackelford, (eds). Springer, forthcoming.

Hong, Z. (2023). A Need to Better Understand the Evolutionary Process of Beliefs about Gods’

Concerns. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 1-3. DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2023.2178490. (Commentary)

Hong, Z. The Value of Sociogenomics in Understanding Genetic Evolution in Contemporary

Human Populations. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 46, E217. doi:10.1017/S0140525X22002424 (Commentary)

Hong, Z. (2022). The Ritual Stance does not Apply to Magic in general. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 45, E258. doi:10.1017/S0140525X2200139X. (Commentary)