Research

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


Evolutionary variation in cognition across species

Why do some animals solve problems differently from others? We examine how variation in cognitive abilities—including decision-making, memory, and social cognition—relates to different species’ feeding ecology and social structure. This allows us to understand the evolutionary processes shaping cognition in general, as well as in the human lineage specifically.

Recent publications:

See all publications about evolutionary variation.


Comparative 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-unique cognition. Studies of development and aging in other species are therefore critical to understand human evolution. Our work on chimpanzee aging is funded by the National Institutes of Aging.

Recent publications:

See all publications about development and aging.


Decision-making, executive control, and memory

Animals face complex complex foraging problems every day: they must remember the location of valuable resources such as food or mates, make trade-offs between potential payoffs and temporal and energetic costs, and deal with an unpredictable changes. This part of our research aims to examine how primates deal with their ecological world, as well as identify uniquely-evolved aspects of human decision-making and self-control.

Recent publications:

See all publications about decision-making and executive control.

See all publications about memory.


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 trying to solve the same sorts of problems. 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 interactions shape their decision-making and foraging strategies.

Recent publications:

See all publications about social cognition.


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 conduct research on how the public perceives great apes and their conservation status, as well as how to best promote primate well-being across contexts.

Recent publications:

See all publications about welfare and conservation.