juvenile primate making a play face

centre for Comparative & evolutionary psychology 

Explore our work in this field, one of 4 areas of expertise within our Psychology research

Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology is the scientific study of the origins of mind and behaviour. Our work explores the evolutionary processes underpinning human behaviour and the comparison of humans with other animals. We have particular expertise in comparative social and spatial cognition, emotion, communication and facial expression.

We investigate how evolution and development shape behaviour and cognition. We're interested in how social structures are formed and how we can apply evolutionary thinking to understand today's problems. 

Through a deeper understanding of the minds and behaviours of animals, we're exploring how humans have evolved – from how social structures are formed, to the ways in which evolutionary thinking can help solve the problems of today. Our research portal, Pure, has a full list of our staff and researchers working in this area.

We're also home to a specialist Dog Cognition Centre, where our work explores topics such as human-dog communication, visual perspective-taking and theory of mind, physical cognition, dogs’ cooperative interactions with other dogs and/or humans, and facial expression in dogs (DogFACS).

Our work covers the following topics

  • Evolution and development
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Social cognition and Emotion
  • Animal behaviour
  • Animal cognition
  • Animal welfare
  • Domestication and cognition
  • Primatology
  • Comparative psychology

Our research methods include behavioural and cognitive experiments, observational analysis of behaviour, and physiological measures such as heart rate monitoring, thermal imaging and cortisol analysis.

Partnerships and funding

Our partnerships include:

  • Monkey Haven on the Isle of Wight – in partnership with Monkey Haven, we conduct cognitive and behavioural studies with rescued primates
  • The Macaca Nigra Project in Indonesia – we're linked with this unique fieldsite to study the behaviour of wild crested macaques
  • The Donkey Sanctuary – we collaborate with the sanctuary on research into the behavioural and logistical support needed for global welfare projects
  • Zantiks Ltd – the only company that designs and builds customised behavioural testing environments for zebrafish, and our work is helping with their development

Our recent funders include the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Leverhulme Trust, Marie Curie, the British Academy , The Leakey Foundation, The Waltham Foundation and the Royal Society.

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Comparative and evolutionary psychology is 1 of our areas of expertise in our Psychology research area. Explore the others below.

Interested in a PhD in Psychology?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Psychology postgraduate research degrees page.


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