As a primatologist with broad interests in comparative, cross-cultural, developmental, and evolutionary psychology, my research focuses on social influences on behaviour. I am fascinated by the development and spread of behaviours in different species groups. Below I have outlined some more specific details of my research topics. My current areas of research focus on the following themes:
Learning in Cross-Cultural Populations
With Cristine Legare, et al.
Both learning and teaching vary within and across cultures. This research involves working with children from cross-cultural populations across the world to study horizontal and vertical social transmission to examine the cultural context of teaching and social learning.
With Andrew Whiten and Nicolas Claidière
The main body of my research into social learning has focused on whether capuchin and squirrel monkeys could socially learn, and how different techniques or solutions diffuse in groups. I trained individual monkeys either to open different types of artificial fruits (or puzzle boxes) or where to find food in a hidden location. I monitored the spread of the behavioural variants in the groups after these observations through utilising social network analyses.
With Mark Bowler, Nicolas Claidière, and Andrew Whiten
Anointing or fur rubbing is a behaviour in which a subject rubs a pungent-smelling material into their body. My research addresses the functional reasons for why capuchin monkeys socially anoint their bodies and fur with onions, and the effects this behaviour has on their group social structure.
With Nicola McGuigan and Mioara Cristea.
I am interested in the development of prosociality in young children, and non-human primates and how the social influences on the behaviour. My experiments involve using prosocial choice tasks to establish model influences on prosocial tendencies and the patterns of the spread of generosity in groups.
Causal and Social Understanding
With Amanda Seed, Daphna Buchsbaum, Alison Gopnik, Andrew Whalen, Emma Tecwyn, and Tom Griffiths.
In presenting children and other primates with a series of different tasks with identical sequences of actions but differing in the social and physical expectations, we investigated how these expectations could influence causal inferences in these species to help understand more about over-imitation.
Alongside my research interests, I also am an active science communicator; working towards not only making my research outputs accessible but also developing resources and activities to bring STEM subjects into the classroom and to outside world as part of my public engagement activities. See science communication tab for more details.