Research with Non-Human Animals

What is comparative cognition?

In a very general sense, the study of cognition involves the way we perceive and act in the world as well as the mental abilities and processes that equip us to do so. Comparative cognition is the study of cognition across different species, ages, and cultures.

 

Why do we study non-human animals?

Our lab is broadly interested in human sociality, and especially in social accountability. We explore what makes human sociality unique and sustainable by studying the evolutionary development of social accountability. Studying non-human animals, especially great-apes (out closest relatives), offers us a way to determine which socio-cognitive skills are uniquely human, and to what degree there is continuity between our abilities and those of our closest relatives.

Some questions we are investigating:
-How does social attention develop in non-human primates, and what are similarities to the development in humans?
-How do non-human primates develop an understanding of sequential structure and timing in social interaction?
-How are gestures acquired through development?
-How is social action enacted and recognized in different species?
-What aspects of ontogenetic development are specifically human?
-Is there a continuity of social and communicative behavior between humans and other species?
-What facilitates and limits cooperation of conspecifics and social groups?
-What role does group membership play in potential competition and collaboration with other conspecifics?
-What are possible evolutionary origins of concepts like property, value, and justice?

Find out more about ongoing research projects here→