Skip header navigation

Behaviour and Evolution Research Group

The Behaviour and Evolution Research Group (BERG) focus on understanding the interaction between evolved capacities and actions in humans and other animals in the changing world of the 21st century.

We use evolutionary principles to guide our research on behaviour, welfare, communication and cognition in a wide range of species. Many BERG members also contribute to the Stirling Human Animal Interaction Research (SHAIR) group. 

We have weekly meetings during the semester, with both internal and external speakers - find out more about BERG Spring 2019.

We run a taught MSc in Evolutionary Psychology, and Masters, PG Certification or Diploma in Human-Animal Interactions and welcome PhD applications.

Research is conducted off-site through collaborative links with research institutes and zoos elsewhere in the UK and Europe, Japan and the US, and also in field sites in Africa and South America. We are part of the Scottish Primate Research Group and were part of the consortium bid to fund the 'Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre' at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo, where we conduct a number of projects.

Our research has been funded by a wide variety of sources including the BBSRCESRC, the Royal Society, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the NC3Rs, and the European Research Council.

  • Human Evolutionary Psychology
    • ‌How do indicators of genetic quality and compatibility influence mate choice?
    • How do biological factors, such as hormones and genes, relate to appearance, behaviour, and perception?
    • What are the mechanisms underpinning cultural evolution?
  • Communication and Cognition
    • What are the origins of language?
    • What cognitive abilities do we share with other animals?
    • How do animals acquire and develop cognitive and social skills?
    • How and which cognitive skills do animals use in problem-solving situations?
    • Dow does cognition relate to sociality in animals and humans?
    • How do we assess cognition in nature?
  • Animal Welfare and Conservation
    • How can we assess the affective state of animals?
    • What are the underlying mechanisms promoting good welfare?
    • How does early rearing environment impact welfare?
    • What are the effects of gender and human attitudes on conservation success?
  • Applications and Impact
    • Welfare and quality of scientific output (link)
    • Animal assisted interventions (link)
    • Hormonal and chemosensory influences on relationships

    Members of the BERG have developed the following websites to improve animal welfare:

Members of the Behaviour and Evolution Research Group

Hannah Buchanan-Smith Animal welfare, behaviour and ecology, comparative colour vision and human-animal interactions.
Christine Caldwell Social learning and cultural evolution in humans and Non-human Primates.
Sharon Kessler Evolution of cognition, health signalling, bioacoustics, kin recognition, agent-based modelling.
Anthony Lee Human mate preference, face and person perception from an evolutionary perspective.
Phyllis Lee Behavioural development, reproductive strategies, social and life history evolution, human-wildlife interactions, gender and conservation.
Gema Martin-Ordas Cognitive mechanisms (e.g. memory, planning) underlying problem-solving in human and non-human animals.
Eoin O'Sullivan Cognitive mechanisms underlying social learning in humans and nonhuman primates.
Pawel Fedurek Vocal communication in human and Non-human Primates.
Craig Roberts Mammalian olfactory communication, MHC-correlated mate choice, human facial attractiveness.
Sarah Vick Social cognition, visual communication, primarily gaze and facial expressions; human animal interactions.

Research Staff

Mark AtkinsonLaura Scullion HallLiz Renner.

Postgraduate students

Yvonne Baur, Kirsten Blakey, Lesley Craig, Paxton Culpepper, Sophia Daoudi, Juliet Dunstone, Donna Kean, Josh Lemin, Becky Leonardi, Gemma Macintosh, Maribel Recharte, Josephine Smit, Jim Swaffield, Lizzie Webber, Charlotte Wilks, Rebecca Wyper.

Honorary Research Fellows

Victoria Fishlock, Betsy Herrelko, Bethan Morgan, Liz Williamson

Example PhD projects

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)

Hannah Buchanan-Smith

Behaviour and Evolution Research Group
Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling Stirling, FK9 4LA Scotland

01786 467674

Scroll back to the top