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Sonja Ebel

Guest Researcher

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (0) 341 3550 714
e-mail: sonja_ebeleva.mpgde

Research Interests
Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

I am interested in the role of experience in great ape and human tool use. Experience can have positive (i.e., facilitating) and negative effects on tool-use performance ("functional fixedness effect"). Related to this issue, it is still under debate whether great apes have enduring functional representations of tools, an intriguing research question. Finally, I am interested in differences in the structure of cognitive domains in different great ape species (bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans).

Curriculum Vitae

since 2020Postdoctoral Researcher
Psychological Methods, Department of Psychology
Philipps University of Marburg
2020Postdoctoral Researcher
Lifespan Psychology, Institute of Psychology I
University of Lübeck
(temporary position, maternity leave replacement)
2019 - 2020        Postdoctoral Researcher
Project "Evolution of Brain Connectivity"
Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology & Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
2014 - 2019Ph.D. Psychology
School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews (Scotland) and
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
2013Research Assistant
Research Group “Comparative Cognitive Anthropology”
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
2013Student Assistant
Research group “Evolutionary Psychology”
Freie Universität Berlin
2010 - 2013M.Sc. Neurobiology and Behaviour
Freie Universität Berlin
2011 - 2012Erasmus exchange program
M.Sc. Behavioural, Neuro- and Cognitive Biology
University of Vienna
2007 - 2010B.A. Philosophy, Neurosciences, Cognition
Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg


Ebel, S. J., Völter, C., Sánchez Amaro, A., Helming, A. K., Herrmann, E., & Call, J. (submitted). Functional fixedness in great apes.

Ebel, S. J., Zeidler, H., Duguid, S., Eckert, J., Völter, C., Call, J., & Herrmann, E. (submitted). Food or tool - does social experience modulate object knowledge in children and chimpanzees?

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., Völter, C. J., & Call, J. (2021). Prior experience mediates the usage of food items as tools in great apes (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo abelii). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 135(1), 64-73.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

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   

Ebel, S. J. (2019). Tool use in great apes and human children: The impact of prior experience and visual feedback. PhD Thesis, University of St Andrews, St Andrews.
BibTeX   Endnote   

Ebel, S. J., Hanus, D., & Call, J. (2019). How prior experience and task presentation modulate innovation in 6-year-old-children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 180, 87-103.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Ebel, S. J., Schmelz, M., Herrmann, E., & Call, J. (2019). Innovative problem solving in great apes: The role of visual feedback in the floating peanut task. Animal Cognition, 22(5), 791-805.
Open Access    DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Ebel, S. J., & Call, J. (2018). The interplay of prior experience and motivation in great ape problem-solving (Gorilla gorilla, Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, and Pongo abelii). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 132(3), 294-305.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote