Understanding Human Behavior

Toe AungToe Aung is one of the most prolific student researchers the Albright psychology department has seen in years. He has lost count of how many research projects he’s conducted. Aung has also published two articles in peer-reviewed journals, is a frequent presenter at academic conferences, and serves as a teaching assistant and tutor.

If his résumé was not impressive enough, Aung has incredibly done it all while learning and perfecting his English.

A native of Myanmar, Aung had wanted to study in America since middle school. His opportunity came four years ago, when, after several tries, he won a green card through a U.S. visa lottery program.

“I wanted a liberal arts education, a general introduction to academics, and a small, friendly environment with a lot of opportunity to grow,” he says.

Aung found all that and more at Albright. Though he spoke little English when he arrived, Aung gradually picked up the language by attending classes, interacting with people, and reading books.

The language obstacle has not slowed him down. The psychobiology major and evolutionary studies minor has conducted numerous research projects in the field of evolutionary psychology, which attempts to understand the human mind using the principles of evolutionary biology, including adaptation and natural selection. Aung discovered his passion for the topic while sitting in a class taught by psychology professor Susan Hughes, Ph.D., an expert in the field, and Aung’s frequent research collaborator.

“Evolutionary psychology is a big framework and it can explain a lot of human behaviors and psychology,” he says.

Aung has used this framework to explore everything from mate selection and mate attractiveness to free will. He has published two papers. His piece in the Journal of Evolutionary Studies Consortium examines the connection between alcohol consumption and mating strategies. And he recently co-authored a study with Hughes in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences that explores what women in the modern day are looking for from their long-term mates in terms of resources (including gifts), traits, and provisioning (services).

An aspiring professor, Aung has fielded several graduate school offers. He has chosen Penn State University, where he will pursue a doctorate in anthropology. His interest in evolutionary psychology has not diminished. Rather, he sees anthropology as a way to continue his exploration of human behavior. Aung says Albright’s approach to interdisciplinary learning influenced that decision.

“Psychology, anthropology – it’s all interrelated. There are many approaches to animal behavior.”