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Professor in the Department of Psychology+44 (0) 191 33 49114
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study


I am a comparative and developmental psychologist with expertise in primatology. I study and compare great apes and young children in order to investigate the evolutionary and developmental basis of hominid social cognition and behavior. My main interests are the development & evolution of social cognition and communication, focussing on empathy, language and social learning. 

 Research Interests 

Evolutionary & Developmental Perspectives on:

  • Social cognition and communication
  • Empathy & socio-emotional processes
  • Language evolution
  • Child gesture
  • Social learning and cultural cognition
  • Primate vocal communication (including referential communication & call combinations) 

I am a specialist in great ape behaviour, with particular expertise in bonobos, our closest living relatives. I have experience studying bonobos in the wild, captivity and semi-captivity, including Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary - where I also act as a long-term Scientific Consultant. 

I conducted my doctoral work with Prof Klaus Zuberbuhler (University of St Andrews) investigating bonobo vocal communication and language evolution. I conducted post-doctoral work with Prof Frans de Waal (Emory University, USA) examining empathy development in sanctuary-living bonobos. I conducted post-doctoral research in the Dept of Comparative Cognition, University of Neuchatel (Switzerland) studying vocal communication in wild bonobos at Lui Kotale, DR Congo (MPI-EVA).

I completed a Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the University of Birmingham with Dr Claudio Tennie examining the evolution & development of imitation and language with great apes and children.

Available PhD and MRes research projects

I would welcome applications from people interested in Comparative and Developmental Psychology, more specifically on the origins of communication, empathy and social cognition. I would be happy to supervise both experimental and observational projects working with human children (UK and cross-culturally) and primates. I have a good network of contacts to arrange access to a variety of primates, including wild, sanctuary-living and captive bonobos. For those wishing to embark on a fieldwork PhD study, experience of travel and work in third world countries is a real advantage.

Please contact me if you are interested in making an application

Research interests

  • Comparative Affective Science
  • Evolution and development of empathy
  • Evolution of language and culture
  • Primate Conservation
  • Primate behaviour
  • Science outreach - primatology
  • Social cognition
  • Development of communication and social learning
  • Primate vocal communication
  • Animal cognition
  • Child gesture development
  • Applications to primate conservation


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