Department of Psychology

Macaque Cognition Project

We have established a set of unique facilities for cognitive and behavioural research with Barbary (Macaca sylvanus) and rhesus macaques (M. mulatta) at the Monkey Haven (Isle of Wight) and crested macaques (M. nigra) at Marwell Zoo (Winchester). The macaques live in their social groups and can voluntarily take part in interactive cognitive tasks. The macaques have also been trained to use computerised touch-screens, and we use these touch-screens to present the animals with different visual and auditory stimuli to investigate the function and evolution of social communication.  All our work is done on public view: visitors to the zoo can watch the all research taking place.


Research Objectives

Cognition & communication:

Cognition & Communication:

Our primary area of interest is the evolution and function of communicative signals in primates. Thanks to our links with the Monkey Haven and Marwell zoo, we have a unique opportunity to study communication in a number of macaque species, including highly understudied species.

Current research projects:

Animal welfare:

Animal welfare:

Alongside our work on macaques’ cognition and communication, we monitor the welfare of the animals. Behavioural observations are coupled with social network analyses to monitor the impact of the studies on the group. Potential enriching effects of our work are also investigated.

Current research projects: 

  • Welfare impact of cognitive testing on group housed primates

Public engagement with Science:

Public engagement with Science:

All the research conducted at the Monkey Haven and at Marwell is on direct public view. Our collaboration with these institutions provides a valuable resource to facilitate public engagement with Science. We assess the public perception of our work as well the educational potential of our work via observational studies and surveys. Our work on public engagement was used as an Impact Case Study in REF2014.

Current research projects:

  • Visitor behaviour, learning and attitudes
  • Development and evaluation of interactive exhibits (funded by the British Psychological Society)

Work within the Macaque Cognition Project

We accept students as volunteer research assistants for minimum 3-months placements. Contact Jérôme Micheletta or Bridget Waller for details and how to apply.

Macaque Cognition Project Team

University of Portsmouth

Publications

Micheletta, J., Whitehouse, J., Parr, L. A., Marshman, P., Engelhardt, A., & Waller, B. M. (in press). Familiar and unfamiliar face recognition in crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Royal Society Open Science.

Micheletta, J., Whitehouse, J., Parr, L. A., & Waller, B. M. (2015). Facial expression recognition in crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Animal Cognition. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-015-0867-z

Whitehouse, J., Waller, B. M., Chanvin, M., Wallace, E. K., Schel, A. M., Peirce, K., Mitchell, H., Macri, A., Slocombe, K. (2014). Evaluation of Public Engagement Activities to Promote Science in a Zoo Environment. PLoS ONE, 9(11), e113395. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113395

Waller, B. M., Liebal, K., Burrows, A. M., & Slocombe, K. E. (2013). How can a multimodal approach to primate communication help us understand the evolution of communication. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 538–549.

Waller, B. M., & Micheletta, J. (2013). Facial expression in nonhuman animals. Emotion Review, 5, 54–59. http://doi.org/10.1177/1754073912451503

Whitehouse, J., Micheletta, J., Powell, L. E., Bordier, C., & Waller, B. M. (2013). The Impact of Cognitive Testing on the Welfare of Group Housed Primates. PLoS ONE, 8(11), e78308. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078308

Waller, B. M., Warmelink, L., Liebal, K., Micheletta, J., & Slocombe, K. E. (2013). Pseudoreplication: a widespread problem in primate communication research. Animal Behaviour, 86(2), 483–488. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.05.038

Micheletta, J., & Waller, B. M. (2012). Friendship affects gaze following in a tolerant species of macaque, Macaca nigra. Animal Behaviour, 83(2), 459–467. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.11.018

Waller, B. M., Peirce, K., Mitchell, H., & Micheletta, J. (2012). Evidence of Public Engagement with Science: Visitor Learning at a Zoo-Housed Primate Research Centre. PLoS ONE, 7, e44680. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044680

Grants

British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant ‘Comparative facial anatomy in macaques: insight into the evolution of complex communication’ to Jérôme Micheletta and Bridget Waller, 2015, £2,790.

Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (EU-FP7) ‘Macacognitum - Evolution of cognition and primate social style’ to Marine Joly, 2014-2016, €300,000.

Leakey Foundation Research Grant ‘Adaptive function of facial displays in crested macaques (Macaca nigra)’ to Bridget Waller and Jerome Micheletta, 2013-2014, $20,884

British Psychological Society Public Engagement Grant ‘Development and evaluation of interactive exhibits promoting comparative psychology in a zoo environment’ to Katie Slocombe and Bridget Waller, 2012-2013, £19,340

Presentations

Whitehouse et al., April 2015:  Barbary macaques’ responses to conspecifics’ self-directed behaviours. Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain. University of Roehampton. Oral presentation. Awarded the Charles A. Lockwood Medal.

Micheletta, February 2015: Social influences on communication and cognition in a tolerant species of macaques (Macaca nigra). University of Exeter, Exeter. Oral presentation.

Micheletta, May 2014: What can we learn from macaques? Cognition, welfare and public engagement with science. Café Scientifique, Portsmouth. Oral presentation.

Ortel et al., April 2014: Enrichment through cognitive research in macaques. Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain. Oxford Brookes University. Poster presentation.

Micheletta et al. March 2014: Communication and cognition in a tolerant species of macaque. BPS seminars, Wessex Branch, Portsmouth. Oral presentation.

Waller, March 2014: What can we learn from macaques: Cognition, welfare and public engagement with science. Café Scientifique, Brighton.

Whitehouse et al., April 2013: The welfare impact of cognitive testing on group housed primates. Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain, University of Lincoln. Oral presentation.

Micheletta et al., April 2013: Individual recognition and facial expression categorisation in crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain, University of Lincoln. Poster.

Micheletta et al., March 2013: Touchscreen work with crested macaques at Marwell Wildlife. Old World primate symposium, Twycross zoo. Oral presentation.

Micheletta et al., October 2012: Touchscreen work with crested macaques at Marwell Wildlife. British and Irish association of zoos and aquariums (BIAZA), Mammal Taxon Working Group. Knowsley Safari Park. Oral presentation.

Micheletta, December 2009: Social communication in crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Marwell Wildlife, Winchester. Oral presentation.