Buss earned his Ph.D. in psychology at University of California, Berkeley in 1981. Before becoming a professor at The University of Texas, he was assistant professor for four years at Harvard University, and he was a professor at the University of Michigan for eleven years.
The primary topics of his research include mating strategies, conflict between the sexes, status, social reputation, prestige, the emotion of jealousy, homicide, anti-homicide defenses, and most recently stalking. All of these are approached from an evolutionary perspective. Buss is the author of more than 200 scientific articles and has won many awards. Some of these awards include American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology in 1988 and APA G. Stanley Hall Lectureship in 1990.
Buss is the author of a number of publications and books, including The Evolution of Desire, The Dangerous Passion, The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology and The Murderer Next Door, which introduces a new theory of homicide from an evolutionary perspective. He is also the author of Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind which is currently in its third edition and was released in 2007. In 2005, Buss edited a definitive reference volume, The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. His latest book is entitled Why Women Have Sex, coauthored with Cindy Meston.
Buss is involved with extensive cross-cultural research collaborations and lectures within the U.S.
In science, it has proven to be very difficult, if not impossible, to find exact definitions for concepts of layman psychology, by either stating the conditions that constitute a certain personality trait, or by exhaustively listing all the acts that identify a bearer of that trait. What exactly defines an individual as "creative", "humorous", or "ambitious"? Equally difficult is the measurement of how strongly a trait is pronounced in an individual. As a solution, Buss and K. H. Craik (1980) proposed to introduce prototype theory into personality psychology.
First, a group of people is asked to list acts that a person bearing the trait in question would show. Next, a different group of people is asked to name from that list those acts that are most typical for the trait. Then the measurement is conducted by counting the number of times (within a given period of time), a proband performs the typical acts.