How do other animals think about the world? Why are their capacities similar to (or different from) our own? We answer these questions by studying the psychology and behavior of semi-free-ranging primate populations.

Evolutionary variation in cognition

Why do some animals solve problems differently from others? A major focus of our research is understanding how variation in cognitive abilities relates to different species’ natural history. This allows us to understand the evolutionary processes shaping cognition in general, as well to reconstruct human cognitive evolution specifically.

Recent publications:

See all publications about evolutionary variation.

Development and aging

Humans exhibit distinct life-history patterns compared to other primates, including an extended juvenile period and long total lifespan, and these developmental shifts may be important for the emergence of human cognition and behavior. Studies of comparative development are therefore critical to understand human evolution. Our work on chimpanzee aging is funded by the National Institutes on Aging.

Recent publications:

See all publications about development and aging.

Decision-making and cognitive control

Animals face complex foraging problems every day, making trade-offs between rewards and costs, accounting for an unpredictable environment, and flexibly adjusting their behavior. What cognitive skills do primates use to do so, and have humans evolved unique abilities for decision-making and self-control?

Recent publications:

See all publications about decision-making and cognitive control.

Social cognition and cooperation

For gregarious species like most primates, social interactions with conspecifics can influence all aspects of daily life. For example, foraging requires competing (or cooperating) with others who are also trying to find food. This component of our research focuses on the psychological skills that primates use to think about and predict others’ behavior, as well as how social context shapes their decision-making strategies.

Recent publications:

See all publications about social cognition and cooperation.

Spatial memory & navigation

Foraging animals face memory problems that involve remembering the location of valuable food resources, as well as navigating between different locations. How do species with different dietary niches locate spatially dispersed foods, and do humans possess specialied abilities to recall complex spaces?

Recent publications:

See all publications about spatial memory and navigation.

Primate welfare and conservation

All species of nonhuman great apes are endangered due to habitat loss, human encroachment, and the bushmeat and pet trades. We partner with welfare and conservation organizations like the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), and conduct research on how the public perceives the conservation status of primates, as well as how to best promote primate well-being across contexts.

Recent publications:

See all publications about welfare and conservation.