RATCHETCOG Project Research Team

Ratchetcog Project Team

The RATCHETCOG project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 648841 RATCHETCOG ERC-2014-CoG. 

Eoin O'Sullivan (Early Career Fellow)

Eoin O'Sullivan
Under the supervision of Prof Caldwell, Eoin O'Sullivan's PhD research examined the topic of social learning from the bottom up. This work was largely conducted at the Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre at Edinburgh Zoo where Eoin studied brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) using experimental and observational methods. During his PhD Eoin examined the associative processes that may underlie the development of imitative behaviours in human children and capuchin monkeys, as well as behavioural and emotional contagion in capuchins. 

Eoin's current research continues to explore mechanisms of social learning through a comparative lens, and he is also now lecturing on a number of modules at the University of Stirling. 
e-mail: Eoin.osullivan@stir.ac.uk
twitter: @CompPsyched

Mark Atkinson (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Mark Atkinson
Mark Atkinson did his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. His thesis, Sociocultural determination of linguistic complexity, investigated why languages exhibit different degrees of complexity, by considering how languages adapt to the different pressures which arise from their learning and use in different social groups. 

Mark’s main research interests include better understanding the mechanisms behind cumulative culture and what capacities other species have for developing it, how group structure affects the transmission, maintenance, and complexity of cultural traits, and how language operates differently to other cultural traditions. His primary role on this project is the design, coding, and testing of computer-based experiments for children and non-human primates, alongside running individual and group experiments with adult participants.  

Liz Renner (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Liz Renner
For her 2015 PhD from George Washington University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, Liz Renner compared performance in social, “ghost”, and individual learning conditions. She carried out experiments with children and orangutans at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, and with adult participants at the University of Nottingham.

Liz’s ongoing research interests include exploring the cognitive bases of cumulative cultural evolution, and elucidating differences in social and individual learning from neural, comparative, developmental, and cultural perspectives. For the project, she will primarily be working on studies with children and non-human primates.

Juliet Dunstone (PhD Student)

Juliet Dunstone

Juliet Dunstone completed her MSc in The Evolution of Language and Cognition at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Her dissertation focused on the payoff structures that drive innovation in cultural evolution.

Juliet's PhD work is currently focused on investigating the relationship between explicit metacognition and cumulative cultural evolution.

Donna Kean (PhD Student)

Donna Kean

Donna Kean completed an MSc in Evolution and Human Behaviour at the University of Kent where her main focus was on primate cognition. Her dissertation investigated the processes underlying capuchin predator alarm calls. The research was carried out at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (ISTC-CNR) in Rome.

Donna's PhD work will explore capacities for cumulative cultural evolution in nonhuman primates, as well as the mechanisms involved in human cumulative culture.

Gemma Mackintosh (PhD Student)

Gemma Mackintosh received her undergraduate MA in Psychology from the University of Dundee, where she worked closely with the Active Vision Lab looking into gaze following. Her dissertation focused on social gaze following in the real world. 

Gemma's PhD work will investigate the role of of theory of mind in generating cumulative cultural evolution. 

Charlotte Wilks (PhD Student)

Charlotte Wilks

Charlotte Wilks spent her undergraduate days learning animal biology before being inspired by animal brains and moving onto an MSc in Neuroscience at University College London. She is also qualified as a primary school teacher.

For her current PhD, Charlotte will be examining capacities for cumulative culture in children at different stages of development.  

Kirsten Blakey (PhD Student)

Kirsten Blakey completed her MSc in Child Development at the University of Stirling. Her dissertation focused on investigating recipient characteristics as motivators of children’s prosocial sharing behaviour.

Kirsten’s PhD research is currently focused on investigating the development of socio-cognitive capacities for cumulative cultural evolution in children, particularly those that are thought to be restricted to humans.