Ongoing Research Projects

Gestures in Non-Human Primates

Lead: Christina Ruiz-Mendoza

This is a longitudinal study of the ontogenetic processes in which primate infants develop, ritualize, and possibly repair their gestural behavior. This is a cross species project including bonobo, chimp, gorilla, and orangutan infants.

Accounting Project

Lead: Rachel Semaya and Christian Vukovics

This project was made to address an economics and accounting concept known as the Principal Agent Problem, which is an interest held by businesses and investors to possess certain information regarding what they are investing in. The study is interested in finding out what information investors pay attention to when making an investment, and is currently observing children around the age of five.

Gender Study

Lead: Karanjot Kaur

The aim of this study is to investigate the attitudes of children in regards to monetary compensation for a task. Two goals are to understand if children will pay others differently based on their ingroup or outgroup status, specifically, gender, and whether children will pay others differently depending on the tasks completed.

 

MPUZ

Lead: Jesus Valdez

The MPUZ Experiment, otherwise known as the Missing Puzzle Piece Experiment, investigates how children perceive the concept of “property” and when these perceptions develop. It addresses the question of when a child can distinguish their own belongings from someone else’s through exploration of its development.

Neuchatel

The Neuchatel study is a collaborative project initiated by the Swiss University of Neuchatel, consisting of over 400 hours of data collected from primates and children. This research will allow us to trace how engagement in joint actions develops within peers. It will also allow for comparison of behavior between the two groups to understand possible evolutionary connections.

Spaghetti Tube

Lead: Meena Patne

The goal of this study is to observe social communication in children. In a similar study with chimpanzees, it was hypothesized that partners were “a social tool that is needed to produce self-serving outcomes, rather than a collaborative partner […]” (Melis & Tomasello, 2013). It is geared toward understanding if children only collaborate with partners due to self-interest, or for a mutually beneficial goal.

Gibbon Cognition Project

Thanks to our friends at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, CA, we have run several experimental cognitive studies on Gibbons, the lesser known, Lesser Ape. We are interested in their perspective taking (Sánchez-Amaro, A., Tan, J., Kaufhold, S.P., Rossano, F. 2019), gaze-following, and cooperative abilities.

Dog Cognition Project

In collaboration with FluentPet, the startup company producing soundboards for animals, we are investigating whether, and if so, how and how much non-humans are able to express themselves in language-like ways. We are primarily looking into dog communication capabilities and memory.