barbary-huddle_1 monkeys bonobo lemur chimpanzee

Barbary macaques huddling at Trentham Monkey Forest in the UK

A rhesus monkey group at Cayo Santiago Island in Puerto Rico

A bonobo rests at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the DRC

A ring-tailed lemur in the Duke Lemur Center forest

A chimpanzee heads to the forest at Tchimpounga in 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 psychology to probe the mechanisms supporting behavior. Our goal is to link specific cognitive abilities to their biological function, with current projects focused on decision-making, spatial memory, 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 is directed by Alexandra Rosati. We are based in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan.

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 ongoing efforts to rebuild the local community and save the 1500 rhesus monkeys living on the island here. Find out how to donate to the staff, community, and monkeys here.