“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!”
Dorsa Amir Ph.D.
“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.”
Rebecca Zhu Ph.D.
“My research investigates when and how children acquire and learn from symbolic systems, such as language and pictures. In a first line of research, I investigate the mechanisms underlying children’s acquisition of various kinds of non-literal language, such as metaphor and metonymy. In a second line of research, I work with urban and rural Kenyan children to investigate whether picture comprehension is intuitive for all children, or whether picture comprehension requires extensive experience with picture books and other visual symbols. “
Laura Lewis Ph.D.
“I am fascinated by the evolution of great ape social cognition. Specifically, my research explores how humans and our closest living phylogenetic relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, have evolved to recognize, remember, and represent one another. I use non-invasive eye-tracking technology and other methods with chimps and bonobos living in zoos and sanctuaries around the world to explore how they attend to familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics, whether they remember previous groupmates, and the extent to which they can comprehend spoken language and emotional expressions. I graduated from Duke University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science, and received my PhD from Harvard University in the department of Human Evolutionary Biology in Spring 2022. I was awarded the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue postdoctoral research here at UC Berkeley. Besides hanging out with great apes, I love swimming in the ocean, making pottery, and hiking in the Berkeley hills.”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“I am interested in understanding the cognitive underpinnings of traits that differentiate us from our closest relatives, the great apes. I am particularly interested in how key adaptations, such as cumulative culture and cooperation, shape the human mind. I study the evolution of social cognition using comparative techniques, having worked with dolphins, monkeys, and now chimpanzees. Maybe someday I’ll work with humans too… Outside of the lab I enjoy cooking, camping, surfing and hiking.”
“I graduated from UC Berkeley in Spring of 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I had worked as a research assistant in the Social Origins Lab my entire senior year. During this time, I was able to work on exciting projects exploring children’s reasoning in social settings. As of summer 2022, I am working for the lab as lab manager, coordinating and organizing the day-to-day functioning of the lab. Outside of academia, I enjoy oil painting, gardening, and reading fiction novels!“
Zhen Zhang, Assistant Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Henriette Zeidler, PhD.
Esther Hermann, PhD.
Lab Manager 2020 – 2022
PhD Student, Northwestern University
Postdoc 2019 – 2022
Assistant Professor, Utrecht University
Graduate Student 2019 – 2022
Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Human Development