barbary-huddle_1 monkeys bonobo lemur chimpanzee

Barbary macaques at Trentham Monkey Forest, UK

Rhesus monkeys at Cayo Santiago Island, Puerto Rico

A bonobo at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, DR Congo

A ring-tailed lemur at the Duke Lemur Center, NC

A chimpanzee at Tchimpounga Sanctuary, Congo Republic


Our research group examines the evolutionary origins of the human mind by comparing how humans and other animals think about the world. We aim to uncover the roots of humans’ unique cognitive phenotype, as well understand what evolutionary processes support the emergence of complex cognitive skills across species more generally.

We approach these problems by integrating theory from evolutionary biology with experimental methods from cognitive science to understanding the mechanisms supporting complex, flexible behavior. Our goal is to link different cognitive traits to their biological function, with current projects focused on decision-making, executive function, and social cognition. We study several primate populations including apes living in African sanctuaries, semi-free-ranging monkeys and lemurs, and humans.

The Cognitive Evolution Group at the University of Michigan is directed by Dr. Alexandra Rosati. We are based in the the Biopsychology area in the Department of Psychology, and are also affiliated with the Biological Anthropology area in the Department of Anthropology.

The Cayo Santiago Biological Field Station and the town of Punta Santiago were both devastated when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. We are working with other scientists and supporters to organize aid and relief. Read more about efforts to rebuild the local community and save the 1700 rhesus monkeys living on the island here. Find out how to donate here. Get involved in Project Monkey Island here.