Primate Cognition: Information Integration in a Complex Social World
This research initiative seeks to better understand the evolutionary origins and mechanisms that characterise primate cognition and sociality. Specifically, we aim to explain the emergence of the apparent discontinuity in cognitive capacity that sets humans apart from other primates. Our research is guided by the hypothesis that the integration of cognitive processes, which individually may only differ in degree, gives rise to the remarkable ultimate differences in kind between species and developmental stages. We will address this guiding hypothesis within three interrelated research areas: ‘Primate Sociality’, ‘Building Blocks of Primate Cognition’, and ‘Developmental and Clinical Perspectives’. All three areas will adopt a comparative perspective, aiming to identify similarities and differences between species. To foster comparative studies, we will create novel experimental paradigms that can be used in humans and nonhuman primate species, individuals of different ages, and neurotypical and clinical populations. We will develop novel avenues in functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and will push forward non-invasive assessments of physiological markers. Innovative data collection and experimentation at three field stations in Madagascar, Thailand and Senegal will extend our work on nonhuman primates in their natural environment. Expanding our computational strengths, we will develop novel approaches to the analysis of high-dimensional data streams. We will strategically recruit senior faculty in psychology and anthropology and establish three junior research groups. This Cluster initiative brings together a unique combination of scholars with expertise in psychology, systems and theoretical neuroscience, primate behaviour, as well as psychiatry. Building on previous successful collaborations, we aim to create a world-leading hub of research on human and nonhuman primate cognition and social behaviour firmly nested within the University of Göttingen and its partners at the Göttingen Campus.
Photo credits: Christian Schloegl