logo 3chimps



bonobo in tree“The greatest difficulty which presents itself, when we are driven to the above conclusion on the origin of man (evolution through natural selection), is the high standard of intellectual power and moral disposition which he has attained.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

The Hominoid Psychology Research Group investigates the comparative psychology of humans and non-human apes. Specifically, we seek to determine which features of human social problem-solving and decision-making are unique amongst the hominoids. If bonobos and chimpanzees lack psychological systems that humans possess, we know these systems evolved since humans and apes diverged from our last common ancestor. Identifying those psychological systems which are responsible for the unique features of human behavior is the first step to solving Darwin's greatest difficulty.


chimp Baby Our group also compares the psychology of primates and non-primates to identify cases of psychological convergence (where distantly related species share similar psychological traits). If the psychology of two distantly related species converge, it is possible these shared traits arose independently due to similar selective pressures. Therefore, cases of convergence may provide a unique opportunity to infer how human-like problem-solving skills evolve. Understanding the selective pressures that can drive the evolution of such psychological systems is the second step in solving Darwin's greatest difficulty.

We conduct our non-invasive behavioral research with chimpanzees and bonobos at several African sanctuaries belonging to the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). By studying apes in African sanctuaries we hope to obtain the most accurate picture of what apes are capable of while supporting welfare and conservation efforts in Africa. In addition, we conduct research with great apes and dogs at the Wolfgang Koehler Primate Research Center, in association with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.


Photogallery from African Sanctuaries

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology