In the Heriot-Watt Child Research lab we are interested in studies that centre on comparative evolutionary psychology and development psychology in human primates and non-human primates. Particular key research interests lie in prosociality or other regarding behaviour, as well as conformity, social learning, the evolution of traditions and cultures, including cumulative culture, the diffusion of behaviours through groups, and animal-human interactions.
The series of studies investigating the social influences on prosocilaity in early childhood is funded by the John Templeton Foundation
January 2017: This month we ran two Science Fun Day Workshops hosted at Kirkcaldy High School for school pupils in Fife and Edinburgh Zoo for school pupils in Edinburgh. Pupils who had previously taken part in our studies investigating prosociality from Kirkcaldy North, Pathhead, and Fair Isle Primary Schools attended the Fife event and pupils from St Paul's R C in East Calder, St Mary's R C in Leith, and Nether Currie Primary Schools attended the event in Edinburgh. We provided a series of interactive stations (e.g. see pupils making Skeleflex models in image) for the pupils to learn about human and non-human behaviour while students from Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh event) and Kirkcaldy High School (Fife event) assisted with the activities.
December 2016: We are delighted to announce, that Dr's Emily Messer and Nicola McGuigan have received some funding from Heriot Watt University's Annual Fund to put towards our Science Fun Day workshop for school children to attend to learn more about the biological underpinnings of human and non-human behaviour.
November 2016: This month we have completed all our data collection in primary schools for our current research project investigating the social influences on prosociality in early childhood. We would like to thank all the children parents and teachers for all their assistance with the data collection. We look forward to sharing some of the results of the studies with you very soon!
October 2016: Lab director, Dr Nicola McGuigan and colleagues from the University of St Andrews have published a new paper out this month in PLoS ONE entitled, Do children copy an expert or a majority? Examining selective learning in instrumental and normative contexts, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. See the publications tab for more information.
September 2016: Thanks to the Templeton Foundation and Dr Michaela Gummerum from Plymouth University for inviting us to be part of The Developmental of Prosocial Behaviour: Context, Culture, Emotions Symposium at the British Psychological Society (BPS) Developmental Section Annual Conference at the Hilton Belfast, Northern Ireland this month. Dr Emily Messer presented some of our results on the social and non-social influences on young children's donating behaviour.
August 2016: Thanks to the Templeton Foundation and Professor Christine Caudwell from Stirling University for inviting us to be part of a symposium on the Developmental Approaches to Understanding Human Social Learning at the International Society for Human Ethology’s (ISHE) XXIII Biennial Congress on Human Ethology at Stirling University. Below is Dr Emily Messer presenting on The Role of Social Experience on Young Children’s Donating Behaviour.
July 2016: Thanks to the Templeton Foundation, we've been presenting the first of our findings into the social and non-social influences on prosociality in young children at the 28th Annual Meeting of the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society in Vancouver, BC, Canda this month(29th June-2nd July 2016).
June 2016: We've finished our data collection with young children in Fife and Edinburgh for this school term. Thanks to the staff, parents and children at Pathhead Primary School, Kirkcaldy, Sinclairtown Primary School; Kirkcaldy; Dysart Primary School, Kirkcaldy; Nethercurrie Primary School, Edinburgh and Longstone Rainbows in Edinburgh for all their help with our study.
May 2016: Early this month we have piloting some new PE equipment for our next study investigating sharing behaviour in young children to start later this month in schools in Fife.
April 2016: We are looking forward to talking with the public about comparative psychology at the Fife Science Festival in Glenrothes on the 13th of May 2016 from 11-7pm. Come and join us as we showcase some of the kinds of experiments we do with monkeys, apes and children/adults.
March 2016: We are getting organised to showcase some of our work with children, monkeys, and apes investigating prosociality, conformity, and social learning at Edinburgh Zoo's Science Night for the Edinburgh International Science Festival this year. Save the date: 9th April 4:30-8:30. Free with Zoo Entry.