Dominic D. P. Johnson

Dominic D. P. Johnson is a famous British writer that authored plenty of great books and articles. Currently, he’s occupying the position of Alastair Buchan Chair of International Relations at St Antony's College, Oxford. He’s also a co-director and founder of the “Natural Governance” Programme in Oxford Martin School.

Dominic Johnson Bibliography

Dominic Johnson received a D.Phil. from Oxford University in evolutionary biology, and a Ph.D. from Geneva University in political science. Drawing on both disciplines, he is interested in how new research on evolution, biology and human nature is challenging theories of international relations, conflict, and cooperation.
His new book, God Is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human (Oxford University Press, 2015), examines the role of religion in the evolution of cooperation, and how cross-culturally ubiquitous and ancient beliefs in supernatural punishment have helped to overcome major challenges of human society.
He has published two previous books. Overconfidence and War: The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusions (Harvard University Press, 2004) argues that common psychological biases to maintain overly positive images of our capabilities, our control over events, and the future, play a key role in the causes of war.
Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics (Harvard University Press, 2006), with Dominic Tierney, examines how and why popular misperceptions commonly create undeserved victories or defeats in international wars and crises.
His current work focuses on the role of evolutionary dynamics, evolutionary psychology, and religion in human conflict and cooperation.
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The academic path of Dominic D. P. Johnson began at the University of Oxford. During his time there, Dominic Johnson showed deep interest in how different organisms work, interact with each other, and evolve. This, along with his phenomenal learning abilities and ambitions in the academic field resulted in DPhil in biology in 2001 at the said university. (DPhil is Oxford’s equivalent of Ph.D.)

Dominic Johnson decided to continue his education and entered the University of Geneva immediately after Oxford. There, he studied political science, a discipline that has always intrigued him, especially considering that he had a deep knowledge of biology and could analyze everything from a different perspective.

In 2004, a title of Ph.D. in political science was given to Dominic D. P Johnson by the University of Geneva. The combination of the 2 disciplines he studied is what lies behind most of his works. He enjoys researching how humans interact, form relationships and groups based on different principles, how society works, and its issues.  

Thanks to his biological and political education, Dominic Johnson is able to spot many processes and concepts that remain undiscovered, revealing new issues in human society, their causes, and potential solutions.


Dominic D. P Johnson has held a lot of high positions during his academic and professional careers. Yet, at the beginning of his personal journey, he used to work mostly in US educational facilities. It all started when in 2002 Harvard University gave him a role of a National Security Fellow at the Olin Institute. There, he worked almost for one and a half years, until 2003. 

After that, Stanford University made him a Science Fellow at their International Security and Cooperation Center, where Dominic Johnson worked from 2003 to 2004.

His career continued at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he went after Stanford University. There, in the International Institute, he became a visiting Fellow in the  Global Fellows Program in 2004. He occupied this position until late 2006.

Simultaneously to his work at the University of California, Dominic D. P. Johnson also occupied a position at Princeton University. There, he used to be a Fellow in the Society of Fellows, from 2004 to 2007.

Also, in the same Princeton University, Dominic was a lecturer at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His lectures were remarkably interesting and loved among the students for Johnson’s ability to present information and his academic background.

In addition to all that, he was also a Society in Science Branco Weiss Fellow from 2004 to 2009.


Dominic D. P. Johnson had a passion for writing as much as he loved researching human nature. He enjoyed sharing his thoughts on paper, which resulted in countless published articles in academic journals and three self-written books.

The main subject of most of his works is the overconfidence and “utopiazation” of humanity. It explains how society becomes too vulnerable to issues and even wars, caused by the overly positive vision of the world. How unrealistic expectations lead to fights and problems in relationships between humans, and how that can lead to fatal results.

This is the main focus of his first book, “Overconfidence and War: The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusion”, which was published in 2004 at the Harvard University Press.

The second work of Dominic D. P. Johnson, “Overconfidence and War: The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusions”, was written in 2006 and published in the same place at Harvard. It shared many similar thoughts with the previous work but included a lot of new research and perspectives on the same concepts.

It focused on the psychological aspect of human expectations and biases. It explained how they cause misconceptions about certain historical and political events, and how it causes society to learn the “wrong” lessons.

The third and the currently last work, “Failing to Win”, continues his look into human’s love to misinterpret things. However, it’s not the main subject now, sharing the pages with evolutionary psychology and dynamics, and added by the research of religion and its influence on human relationships and conflicts.

International Studies Association awarded Dominic D. P. Johnson with the Best Book Award in 2006 for his “Failing to Win”. 

He published more than forty articles that focus on the same psychological aspects. Just like in his books, Dominic explains that having wrong images of the surrounding world and historical events leads to issues in political relationships and can even end in world-sized conflicts. And of course, that it has an immense impact on human’s daily life and psychological state of society.

His most known articles are: 

  • “The Evolution of Overconfidence”, Nature
  • “The Tragedy of Cognition: Psychological Biases and Environmental Inaction”, Current Science
  • “The origins and evolution of leadership”, Current Biology
  • “Hand of God, Mind of Man: Punishment and Cognition in the Evolution of Cooperation”, Evolutionary Psychology


Dominic D. P. Johnson has also an impressive list of achievements:

  • National Environment Research Council awarded him 2nd prize in the business plan competition in 2001.
  • Swiss Political Association ranked his Ph.D. work the “Best Ph.D. from University of Geneva” title in 2004.
  • Honor Book award for “Overconfidence in War” in 2005.
  • Chancellor’s “Rising Star” award from the University of Edinburgh in 2011