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Sarah Caldwell

Senior scientist

Abteilung für Vergleichende Kulturpsychologie
Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

Telefon: +49 (0) 341 3550 418
E-Mail: sarah_caldwell@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Research Interests

I’m a cross-cultural and comparative psychologist studying variation in cognitive flexibility within the primate lineage and across human cultures. Specifically, my research explores the contexts in which familiar strategies block better ones from being adopted. My work combines demographic, observational, and empirical approaches to understand how both flexible and inflexible behavior contributes to cultural evolution.

I am currently cultivating two research projects exploring variation in cognitive flexibility in nonhuman and human primates. The first project focuses on species differences in optimal strategy-use in nonhuman apes and is based out of the Leipzig Zoo. My second project is a cross-cultural assessment of the developmental trajectory and impact of subsistence style on cognitive flexibility. My primary field site is in the Likouala region of the Republic of the Congo, working with both BaYaka foragers and Bondongo farmers.

Personal webpage: https://sarahmichellepope.com



Pope-Caldwell, S., Deffner, D., Maurits, L., Neumann, T., & Haun, D. (2024). Variability and harshness shape flexible strategy‑use in support of the constrained flexibility framework. Scientific Reports, 14: 7236.
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Stengelin, R., Bohn, M., Sánchez Amaro, A., Haun, D. B. M., Thiele, M., Daum, M. M., Felsche, E., Fong, F. T. K., Gampe, A., Giner Torréns, M., Grueneisen, S., Hardecker, D. J. K., Horn, L., Neldner, K., Pope-Caldwell, S. M., & Schuhmacher, N. (2024). Responsible research is also concerned with generalizability: Recognizing efforts to reflect upon and increase generalizability in hiring and promotion decisions in psychology. Meta-Psychology, 8.
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Bruno, D., Pope-Caldwell, S. M., Haberl, K., Hanus, D., Haun, D., Leisterer-Peoples, S., Mauritz, S., Neldner, K., Sibilsky, A., & Stengelin, R. (2022). Ethical guidelines for good practice in cross-cultural research. Leipzig: Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology, Max Planck Institute for evolutionary anthropology.
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Pope-Caldwell, S. M., & Washburn, D. A. (2022). Overcoming cognitive set bias requires more than seeing an alternative strategy. Scientific Reports, 12: 2179.
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Pope-Caldwell, S. M., Lew-Levy, S., Maurits, L., Boyette, A. H., Ellis-Davies, K., Haun, D., Over, H., & House, B. R. (2022). The social learning and development of intra- and inter-ethnic sharing norms in the Congo Basin: A registered report protocol. PLoS One, 17: e0276845.
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Lew-Levy, S., Pope, S. M., Haun, D. B. M., Kline, M. A., & Broesch, T. (2021). Out of the empirical box: A mixed-methods study of tool innovation among Congolese BaYaka forager and Bondongo fisher–farmer children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 211: 105223.
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Lew-Levy, S., Milks, A., Lavi, N., Pope, S. M., & Friesem, D. E. (2020). Where innovations flourish: An ethnographic and archaeological overview of hunter–gatherer learning contexts. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 2: e31.
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Pope, S. M., Fagot, J., Meguerditchian, A., Watzek, J., Lew-Levy, S., Autrey, M. M., & Hopkins, W. D. (2020). Optional-switch cognitive flexibility in primates: Chimpanzees’ (Pan troglodytes) intermediate susceptibility to cognitive set. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 134(1), 98-109.
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Pope, S. M., Fagot, J., Meguerditchian, A., Washburn, D. A., & Hopkins, W. D. (2019). Enhanced cognitive flexibility in the seminomadic Himba. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 50(1), 47-62.
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Watzek, J., Pope, S. M., & Brosnan, S. F. (2019). Capuchin and rhesus monkeys but not humans show cognitive flexibility in an optional-switch task. Scientific Reports, 9: 13195.
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Pope, S. (2018). Differences in cognitive flexibility within the primate lineage and across human cultures: When learned strategies block better alternatives. PhD Thesis, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia.
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Pope, S., Taglialatela, J. P., Skiba, S. A., & Hopkins, W. D. (2018). Changes in frontoparietotemporal connectivity following Do-As-I-Do imitation training in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 30(3), 421-431.
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Hopkins, D. D., Meguerditchian, A., Coulon, O., Misiura, M., Pope, S., Mareno, M. C., & Schapiro, S. J. (2017). Motor skill for tool-use is associated with asymmetries in Broca’s area and the motor hand area of the precentral gyrus in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Behavioural Brain Research, 318, 71-81.
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Hopkins, W. D., Coulon, O., Meguerditchian, A., Autrey, M., Davidek, K., Mahovetz, L., Pope, S., Mareno, M. C., & Schapiro, S. J. (2017). Genetic factors and orofacial motor learning selectively influence variability in central Sulcus morphology in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Neuroscience, 37(22), 5475-5483.
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Hopkins, W. D., Misiura, M., Pope, S. M., & Latash, E. M. (2015). Behavioral and brain asymmetries in primates: A preliminary evaluation of two evolutionary hypotheses. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1359(1), 65-83.
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Pope, S. M., Meguerditchian, A., Hopkins, W. D., & Fagot, J. (2015). Baboons (Papio papio), but not humans, break cognitive set in a visuomotor task. Animal Cognition, 18(6), 1339-1346.
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Pope, S. M., Russell, J. L., & Hopkins, W. D. (2015). The association between imitation recognition and socio-communicative competencies in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Frontiers in psychology, 6: 188.
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Taglialatela, J. P., Russell, J. L., Pope, S. M., Morton, T., Bogart, S., Reamer, L. A., Schapiro, S. J., & Hopkins, W. D. (2015). Multimodal communication in chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology, 77(11), 1143-1148.
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