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  group examines the evolutionary origins of the human mind. How do our primate relatives think about the world, are their psychological abilities similar to or different from our own, and why do species differ in their cognitive abilities? We aim to uncover the roots of humans’ unique cognitive phenotype, as well understand what evolutionary processes shape the emergence of different cognitive skills.

Our research uses a comparative approach drawing on evolutionary theory, cognitive science, and developmental psychology to understand the origins of complex, flexible behavior. We are especially focused on capacities supporting decision-making, executive control, and social cognition. To do this work, we study both humans and several semi-free-ranging ape, monkey, and lemur populations.

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.