Leda Cosmides is best known for her work in pioneering the field of evolutionary psychology. She developed her interest in rebuilding psychology along evolutionary lines while an undergraduate at Harvard, where she got her A.B. in biology (1979) and her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology (1985). Cosmides did postdoctoral work with Roger Shepard at Stanford and was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, before moving to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she has been on the faculty since 1991.
Cosmides won the 1988 American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Behavioral Science Research, the 1993 American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology, a J. S. Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Human Behavior Evolution Society. In 1992, with John Tooby, she published The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture, an edited volume designed to be a state-of-the-art survey of what was then a new field. Leda Cosmides is currently Distinguished Professor of Psychological Brain Sciences at UCSB. She and John Tooby founded and co-direct the UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology.