Get Involved

Are you interested in getting involved in our research, or just learning more about comparative cognition? The Cognitive Evolution Group has many opportunities for graduate students and undergraduates to participate in research, including independent honor theses. Please contact Dr. Alexandra Rosati (rosati [at] umich [dot] edu) for information on current positions in the Cognitive Evolution Group.

Undergraduate Researchers: The Cognitive Development group is always looking for undergrads with a passion for animal cognition and behavior, and desire to start participating in research. Many undergraduates join our group by initially enrolling in a course like Psychology 331; we ask prospective undergraduate researchers to fill out the lab Undergraduate Research Application. Undergrads joining the group are expected to attend weekly lab meetings, which in Fall 2024 will be Fridays from 10-11:30. In addition, we recruit some undergraduates through UM’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Finally, we have opportunities for students to work with us through work study programs. Please email Dr. Rosati or with any questions.

Graduate Students: Dr. Rosati will be accepting new graduate students in the 2023 application cycle for a start date of fall 2024. All applications would be through the Biopsychology area in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. Information for prospective Biopsychology students about the program, funding package, and tips for your application process can be found here; please note that the application does not require GRE scores.

Applicants should have a B.A., B.S. or equivalent, and a background in psychology, anthropology, biology, or a related field. Prior research experience, especially involving behavioral research with animals or in field conditions, is preferable. If you are interested in applying, it is recommended that you email Dr. Rosati with a brief description of your research background and interests, and an attached CV. Prospective students may also be interested in applying to the UM Psychology Diversity Recruitment Weekend in the fall before they submit their application.

Postdoctoral researchers: Prospective postdocs should get in touch with Dr. Rosati about potential opportunities in the Cognitive Evolution Group.

Courses: Dr. Rosati teaches several courses on the evolution of cognition and behavior that are a useful starting point for getting involved in our work.

Psychology 363: Human Cognitive Evolution (next taught Fall 2023). Human behavior is strikingly different from other animals: we speak languages, create tools, work together on large-scale endeavors, and even learn from others in university classrooms. What cognitive processes underlie these behaviors, and how did they emerge in our evolutionary history? In this course, we will examine the evolutionary origins of the human mind by integrating theoretical perspectives from biology with cutting-edge empirical research from psychology. Topics will include the origins of human cooperation, communication, theory of mind, culture, morality, emotions, memory, foresight, and self-control.

Psychology 235: Introduction to Evolution and Behavior (next taught Winter 2024). This course examines the evolutionary origins, biological foundations, and psychology underlying human and animal behaviors including social relationships, kinship, sexual behavior, communication, aggression, foraging, cooperation, and culture. This will provide a strong foundational grounding in evolutionary theory, life history, and behavioral ecology for subsequent upper level courses in Biopsychology as well as other areas. Using a comparative approach, we will contextualize human behavior by examining non-humans, especially primates. This course will integrate evolutionary theory, behavioral observations, and experiments to understand the evolution of behavior, brain, and cognition.

Psychology 465: Evolution and Human Nature (next taught Winter 2024)What are the evolutionary origins of human behavior? This seminar will cover a range of topics using biological approaches to human behavior and psychology, including kinship, sexuality, violence, warfare, xenophobia, culture, and religion. Using a comparative approach, we will contextualize human behavior by examining studies of non-human primates, especially chimpanzees. We will also examine the breadth of human diversity across societies using ethnographic and experimental data from small-scale human societies (such as hunter-gatherers), as well as people from industrialized societies. Our goal is to use evolution as a framework for understanding this range of human behaviors.

Psychology 808: The Science of Self Control (TBD). What is self-control, how does it work, and why does it work that way? This graduate seminar will integrate economic, psychological, neurobiological, and evolutionary approaches to understanding self-control. We will try to define self-control, examine the mechanisms shaping various facets of self-control, and examine the evolutionary function of these processes. Finally, we will assess the real world consequences of impulsivity in terms of wealth, health, and well-being. This course will focus on a mix of foundational and current scientific articles, with the goal of developing critical analysis and writing skills. This is a reading-intensive course where class sessions will be primarily discussion-based.

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