“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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 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!“
Henriette Zeidler Ph.D.
Esther Hermann Ph.D.