The evolution of language:

We recently used comparative analyses to provide the first evidence that evolutionary increases in the size of the vocal repertoire in non-human primates have been associated with increases in both group size and levels of social bonding. This has enhanced our understanding of the rules that link communication and social behaviour - an essential pre-requisite for discerning how a communication system as complex as human language might have evolved. Detailed in McComb & Semple, 2005.

Perspective taking and social sensitivity in non-human primates:

We have employed a novel playback paradigm to show that Barbary macaques use a simple rule of thumb when hiding themselves from conspecifics, adopting a position where they can monitor the simulated competitors and avoiding leaving the lower half of their body exposed to view (Roberts, McComb, Ruffman & Semple, in prep). 

We have also recently demonstrated that Barbary macaques show very low levels of referential looking towards their mothers in situations of uncertainty (experimentally generated by presentations of a model snake) compared with chimpanzees and humans (Roberts et al., in press).  However, when both referential and non-referential looks are considered, older infants looked more towards their mothers in the experimental condition than younger infants, suggesting that age may be an important factor in determining looking behaviour.

Communication and sexual selection:

Our earlier research investigated the function of female copulation calls in Barbary Macaques and yellow baboons (eg, Semple & McComb, 2000, Semple et al., 2002; Semple & McComb, 2006).


School of Psychology