Principal Investigator

Jan Engelmann

>> Curriculum Vitae

“I study the origins of uniquely human cognition and behavior, with a focus on how individuals reason and act cooperatively. Using behavioral experiments with children and chimpanzees, I try to determine how children in different cultures develop into reasonable and responsible agents, and, correspondingly, why chimpanzees usually don’t hold each other responsible for their beliefs and actions. I grew up in Munich, Germany, did my PhD with Michael Tomasello and Esther Herrmann at the MPI of Evolutionary Anthropology, post-docted with Yarrow Dunham at Yale and Hannes Rakoczy at the University of Göttingen, and I am very excited to explore the beautiful nature of the Bay Area!”


Carolyn Baer Ph.D.

>> Curriculum Vitae

“We get information about the world from a variety of imperfect sources: the sensory experience of hearing a muffled voice, memories that feel like dreams, or testimony from our peers. How do we extract useful information from this confusing input? I study the cognitive and social tools that humans leverage to learn about the world, particularly our metacognitive sense of confidence. I want to understand how children use confidence on its own and in combination with other sources like testimony to decide what is true. I completed a MASc close to my Canadian hometown at the University of Waterloo with Ori Friedman, and my PhD at the University of British Columbia with Darko Odic. My postdoctoral work here at Berkeley is sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by a very reasonable obsession with the west coast.”

Dorsa Amir Ph.D.

>> Curriculum Vitae

“I am an evolutionary anthropologist interested in how differing cultural & ecological environments shape the developing mind. Most of my work focuses on decision-making and the ontogeny of preferences across societies. My primary fieldwork takes place among the Shuar, an indigenous forager-horticulturalist group living in Amazonian Ecuador. I received my PhD at Yale University in Biological Anthropology, and am currently a postdoctoral researcher in the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology. If you ever need to buy me a gift, anything with a cat on it will do nicely.”

Hanna Schleihauf Ph.D.

>> Curriculum Vitae

“What makes us human? Why do we think the way we think? Are there patterns in the way we think, make decisions, or interact that are unique to humans and can they be found in all human cultures? Are there thinking and interaction patterns that differ between cultures and, if so, how are they different and why? And what evolutionary benefits shaped these processes? These are questions I am highly fascinated by. In my research I try to find answers to these questions by using behavioral and eye-tracking experiments with children, adults, and chimpanzees. I did my PhD at Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Science in Leipzig, supervised by Stephanie Hoehl and Sabina Pauen. Now I am very excited to work in such an inspiring place like Berkeley.”

Graduate Students

Antonia Langenhoff

>> Curriculum Vitae

“I am fascinated by how our normative and linguistic cognition interact with our uniquely human social reasoning skills. As a graduate student, I explore the role that engaging in social discourse and argumentation plays for children’s cognitive development. I grew up in a small town in Northwest Germany, in close proximity to the Dutch border. Hence, I love Dutch cheese, Dutch pastries, and Dutch beaches. I also enjoy climbing, surfing, playing volleyball, and discovering new movie theaters and concert venues.”

Colin Jacobs

>> Curriculum Vitae

“I’m very interested in how young children develop a sense of morality, and how such development relates to the basic human problem of cooperation and cultural cohesion. I’m also fascinated by the underlying cognitive tools children may use to apply or modify moral beliefs, for example; how their development as rational learners interacts with early intuitions to solidify into moral principles, how their developing understanding of number/quantity may influence what they believe to be fair, or how their developing capacity for Theory of Mind may affect an understanding that others deserve mutual respect. I’m looking forward to continuing research on these topics in the coming years, and to widening the breadth of my interests through peer collaborations. Outside of research, I love to hike, climb, cook and read science fiction!”

Joshua Confer

>> Curriculum Vitae

“My research broadly focuses on the development and cross-cultural variation in how we come to hold our beliefs and what factors influence such beliefs. Currently, I am investigating how children revise their held beliefs depending on the epistemic and social motivations for doing so. Additionally, I am examining how perceptions of control over another’s belief or action relate to corresponding judgments of responsibility. I frequently think about these topics amongst various other things while hiking, adventuring with my German Shepherd, and watching films and sports. I originally grew up in the rural farmlands of Michigan.”

Lou Haux

>> Curriculum Vitae

“How do human and nonhuman animals make adaptive decisions in uncertain environments? During my PhD in Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin (together with Ralph Hertwig, Esther Herrmann and Jan Engelmann), I am investigating chimpanzees’ risk preferences and exploration strategies in a comparative framework. My aim is to contribute an evolutionary perspective to the study of ecological rationality. Behavioral research has increasingly fascinated me since I started studying collaboration in human children and friendship in chimpanzees during my Bachelor and Master thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Further to Psychology I studied Graphic Design at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. In a broader perspective, I am interested in how science and art tackle fundamental questions with complementary approaches.”

Oded Ritov

>> Curriculum Vitae

“I am interested in moral perceptions and judgments and in how these develop from early childhood to adulthood. Through investigating influences of the social context on these processes, I hope to discover more about their evolutionary function and how it relates to phenomena we see outside the lab. When not engaged with these themes, I enjoy going to concerts, cooking, reading, and spending time in nature.”

Visiting Scholars

Winuss Mohtezebsade

While conducting research for my bachelor’s thesis, I acquired knowledge on several facets of social cognition, such as reciprocity in children, on which I want to focus in terms of exploring the role of cultural influences on development. My current research interests include the mechanisms underlying the occurrence of empathy, altruism, and cooperation, and how these may affect social cognition, as well as the cultural influences that may affect (social) development and one’s identity and sense of self. I specifically want to focus on minority children and adolescents with migrant backgrounds, and explore how the development of the prior mentioned mechanisms and influences may differ relative to cultural upbringing, environment and social status. During my visiting scholar position at UC Berkeley, I will conduct research on children’s source memory ability and what effects disagreement has on it.

Lab Manager

Alissa Gomez

“As lab manager, I oversee the day-to-day and general functioning of the lab. I graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Double Minor in Applied Psychology and Feminist Studies. Having worked in social psychology labs throughout my undergraduate career, I am excited to explore influences of culture and aspects of comparative psychology in relation to social reasoning. I am a Bay Area native from the lovely city of Fremont. Outside of academia I enjoy hiking, taking road trips, and practicing my painting skills!”


Affiliated Researchers

Henriette Zeidler Ph.D.

>> Curriculum Vitae


Esther Hermann Ph.D.

>> Curriculum Vitae