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Dr Raphaela Heesen

Research Associate


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Research Associate in the Department of PsychologyRH016 


I am interested in comparative research on human and nonhuman great ape communication and social cognition. Specifically, I investigate how communication is used to express emotions and to coordinate joint activities. I am also interested in comparing the structure of communicative repertoires between humans and nonhuman animal species, in particuar nonhuman great apes (applying methods of quantitative linguistics). With such comparative research outputs, I attempt to tackle broader questions related to the evolution of human language, emotion and cooperation.

In my current post-doctoral appointment with Dr Zanna Clay, I combine naturalistic behavioral observations and experimental designs to study differences in expression/perception of emotion in humans and great apes. Our methods involve behavioral coding, paired with diverse psycho-physiological techniques (e.g., thermal imaging, eye-tracking, heart rate measures and galvanic skin conductance).

Research interests

  • Evolution of social intelligence
  • Communication
  • Joint action

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Evolution:


Chapter in book

  • Heesen R., Sievers C., Gruber T. & Clay Z. (Accepted). Primate communication: Affective, intentional, or both? In Primate Cognitive Studies. B. L. Schwartz & M. J. Beran Cambridge University Press.

Journal Article