The John Damien Lecture 2019

11 Oct 2019, 7.45PM–8.45PM
Logie Lecture Theatre
Phyllis Lee
The John Damien Lecture 2019

Join us on campus as Professor Phyllis Lee delivers our 2019 John Damien Lecture with

Towards a psychology of elephants and other animals'


We humans are endlessly fascinated with how we and other species see the world. What do animals understand of their companions, do animals have a “mind” or consciousness? And most importantly, can we humans find ways to understand the mind of other species?

In the course of 38 years spent observing elephants as part of a Kenyan team (along with a few other species), we have come to appreciate their rich social lives, how they respond to dangers from humans and other species, how they find their way to food, water and friends, over changing ecosystems and in environments that are seldom stable from month to month. Based on tracking almost 3500 individuals over their lifespan, we now have some insights into what elephants need, how they react to and interact with their world, and perhaps to make some predictions about their future. Elephants share many traits of thinking and acting with other animals such as the great apes, but some elements are unique and I will attempt to outline commonalities and differences.\


This lecture is free to attend and is open to all, but we ask that you please register online in advance.

Phyllis Lee has recently been made an Emeritus Professor of the University of Stirling. She joined the Department of Psychology in 2005, was Head of Department between 2007-2012, and was Associate Dean for Research for the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

As well as studying the Amboseli elephants, she has observed baboons and vervet monkeys in the wild, and she has been part of projects working with wild Asian elephants, forest African elephants, elephant welfare in captivity, wild and captive chimpanzees, wild gorillas, Muriqui and capuchin monkeys in Brazil and in captivity, endangered red colobus on Zanzibar, Buton macaques, and studies on peoples’ attitudes to wildlife.

Over 30 PhD students have completed their studies in collaboration with her. She is passionate about ensuring that wildlife has space to exist in the 21st Century.