David Samson

Assistant Professor

On Leave

January 01, 2022 to June 30, 2022
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(905) 569-4295


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

Research Region: Northern Canada, Africa, South America

Research Keywords: Human evolution, sleep, cognition, hunter-gatherers, tribalism


Dr. Samson has a high-profile research program featured in such venues as BBC, Time, New York Times, and New Scientist. His research investigates the link between sleep and human evolution through revolutionary new approaches, recording sleep data sets and sleep architecture for a range of primates including lemurs, zoo orangutans, wild chimpanzees, and humans living in different types and scales of societies. (He has just received a National Geographic grant to study sleep in Hadza hunter-gatherer communities, for example.) Sleep has been identified as a major factor in human physical and mental health, yet almost no research has been done on the role of sleep in human evolution; Dr. Samson’s research directly addresses the central anthropological question of human uniqueness in comparison to other animals for the major topic of sleep.

Dr. Samson is seen as an exceptional and energetic interdisciplinary scholar using broad, sophisticated research strategies to investigate major behavioural and physiological transitions in human evolution, with results that have significant implications for modern human medical, occupational and life-style issues. Dr. Samson brings a strong teaching and research program for both evolutionary anthropology and primatology to UTM, launching us in completely new directions while complementing existing faculty. For Anthropology as a whole, he will provide new interactions with our strong health and medical anthropology programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as offering interactions with cognitive and developmental research in psychology and biology.

Prior Education: 

Indiana University, PhD; Duke University, Postdoc and Senior Research Scientist 


In 2019, he was the recipient of the Canadian Sleep Society Roger Broughton Young Investigator Award. He is a member of Sigma XI: The Scientific Research Society and the recipient of several fellowships.

Selected Publications


2021       Samson, D.R. The human sleep paradox: the unexpected sleeping habits of Homo sapiens. Annual Review of Anthropology. Accepted. 

2020       Samson, D.R. Taking the sleep lab to the field: Biometric techniques for quantifying sleep and circadian rhythms in humans. American Journal of Human Biology. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.23541

2019       Samson, D. R., Louden, L. A., Gerstner, K., Wiley, S., Lake, B. White, B. J., Nunn, C. L., and K.D. Hunt. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) group sleep and pathogen-vector avoidance: experimental support for the encounter-dilution effect. International Journal of Primatology. DOI: 10.1007/s10764-019-00111-z  

2019       Samson, D.R., Vining, A., and C.L. Nunn. Sleep influences cognitive performance in lemurs. Animal Cognition. 22: 697-708. DOI: 10.1007/s10071-019-01266-1

2018       Samson, D.R., Crittenden, A.N., Mabulla, I.A., Mabulla, A.Z.P. and C.L. Nunn. Does the moon influence sleep in small-scale societies? Sleep Health. 4: 509-514. DOI: 10.1016/j.sleh.2018.08.004

2017       Samson, D.R., A.N. Crittenden, I.A. Mabulla, A.Z.P. Mabulla, and C.L. Nunn. Evidence that humans evolved to be natural, nighttime sleep sentinels. Proceedings B: The  Royal Society. 284: 20170967

2015       Samson, D.R. and C.L. Nunn. Sleep intensity and the evolution of human cognition.  Evolutionary Anthropology. 24(6): 225-237