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Kathrin Susanne Kopp

Postdoctoral Researcher

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
E-Mail: kathrin_koppeva.mpgde
Tel.: +49 (0) 341-3550-214

Research Interests and Current Research
Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests and Current Research

My main research interests lie in comparative studies on social abilities and interactions in all great ape species, including humans, with a special focus on prosocial behaviours, their underlying processes and motivations as well as influencing external factors.

Following the comparative approach, a central question is: Which of the abilities and behaviours that are present in extant hominids reflect a common evolutionary heritage, and which are species-specific? However, no ape is like the other – this does not only apply to humans. On the contrary, great apes demonstrate a considerable inter-individual variety in their skills, preferences and behaviours – within a species and even within a population or group. A further question I am very interested in is therefore: Which social and non-social factors shape the development of specific cognitive, emotional and behavioural characteristics of an individual? Moreover, as a behavioural scientist studying great apes in zoos and sanctuaries, it is also my interest to use the knowledge we gain from our research to identify factors that might promote great apes' well-being, in order to help improving the living conditions of great apes in human care.

In my current position as a post-doctoral fellow within the Evolution of Brain Connectivity Project and together with a team consisting of scientists and research assistants, I investigate social behaviours, communication and tool use in chimpanzees and bonobos in numerous European zoos and African sanctuaries. For this, we combine natural observations with a set of behavioural and cognitive tests. Our aims are (1) to assess the inter-individual variation in particular social behaviours, social connectedness, vocal and gestural communication and tool use, and (2) to link this variation to socio-ecological factors determining individual life conditions.

Curriculum Vitae

Professional Employment

Since 04/2019Post-doctoral researcher within the Evolution of Brain Connectivity Project, Line manager for behavioural research at zoos and sanctuaries, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
01/2017- 03/2019Post-doctoral researcher with teaching assignment, Comparative Developmental Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
06/2015-12/2016Scientific assistant with teaching assignment, Comparative Developmental Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
04-05/2015Visiting Lecturer, Dep. of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
05/2012-10/2014Scientific assistant, Cluster of Excellence Languages of Emotion, Evolutionary Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin


01/2017Doctor of Philosophy, Dep. of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
Dissertation: Prosocial behaviour in captive Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii)
Supervisor: Katja Liebal, Freie Universität Berlin; Co-Referee: Judith M. Burkart, University of Zurich
10/2010-09/2016Doctorate at Freie Universität Berlin: Comparative Psychology
12/2009Magistra Artium in Philosophy and Biology, Dep. of Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Thesis: The evolutionary roots of morality and the possible role of group selection
Supervisors: Olaf L. Müller, Dep. of Philosophy, and Andreas Elepfandt, Dep. of Biology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin



Kopp, K. S., Ebel, S. J., Wittig, R. M., Haun, D. B. M., & Crockford, C. (in press). Small mirrors do the trick: A simple, but effective method to study mirror self-recognition in chimpanzees. Animal Behavior and Cognition.

Ebel, S. J., Kopp, K. S., & Liebal, K. (2020). Object preferences in captive Sumatran orang-utans (Pongo abelii). Behavioural Processes, 170: 103993.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Haun, D., Liebal, K., Amici, F., Bender, A., Bohn, M., Bräuer, J., Buttelmann, D., Burkart, J., Cacchione, T., DeTroy, S., Faßbender, I., Fichtel, C., Fischer, J., Gampe, A., Gray, R. D., Horn, L., Oña, L. S., Kärtner, J., Kaminski, J., Kanngießer, P., Keller, H., Köster, M., Kopp, K. S., Kornadt, H.-J., Rakoczy, H., Schuppli, C., Stengelin, R., Trommsdorff, G., Leeuwen, E. v., & Schaik, C. v. (2020). Ein Plädoyer für die Relevanz der Vergleichenden Psychologie für das Verständnis menschlicher Entwicklung (Kommentare zu Daum, M. M., Greve, W.,Pauen, S., Schuhrke, B. und Schwarzer, G.(2020). Positionspapier der Fachgruppe Entwicklungspsychologie: Ein Versuch einer Standortbestimmung. In: Psychologische Rundschau, 71(1), 24-46). Psychologische Rundschau, 71(1), 40-41.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Kopp, K. S., & Liebal, K. (2018). Conflict resolution in socially housed Sumatran orangutans (̑Pongo abelii). PeerJ, 6: e5303.
Open Access    DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Kopp, K. S. (2017). Prosocial behaviour in captive Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii). PhD Thesis, Freie Universität, Berlin.
Open Access    BibTeX   Endnote   

Kopp, K. S., & Liebal, K. (2016). Here you are!—Selective and active food sharing within and between groups in captive Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70, 1219-1233. Retrieved from 10.1007/s00265-016-2130-2.
BibTeX   Endnote