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Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Animal Curiosity and Cognition


Within the biological sciences it has long been debated what factors drive cognitive evolution between species and which processes shape individual skill learning within species. Our research focuses on cognitive development and how variation during ontogeny influence motivational pathways and thereupon cognitive processes and skill learning.

  • In the Meerkat Cognition Project, we study inter-individual cognitive variation across four major factors: an individual’s social life, intrinsic motivation (curiosity), cognitive abilities and fitness. The project takes place at the study site of the Kalahari Research Center in Kuruma River Reserve in South Africa, where we study multiple wild groups of meerkats (Suricata suricatta).
  • In a different study system - the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), we are studying cognitive causes and consequences of urbanization in a population located at the Simbithi Eco Estate in Kwazulu-Natal South Africa - the Urban Vervet Project.

Due to the anthropogenic impact on the world’s ecosystems, on a global scale species diversity of non-human animals is declining, yet some animals are thriving in human altered environments. Our research targets how different habitats influence primate’s domain-general cognitive abilities. By working together with the Inkawu Vervet Project, incorporating wild vervet monkeys, we are using a comparative approach to investigate the underlying cognition enabling vervet monkeys to seize new opportunities and successfully adapt to environmental change.

Head of group: Dr. Sofia Forss

Research themes

  • Animal cognition, Animal Innovation, Curiosity in Animals, Motivational Cognitive traits
  • Developmental influences on cognitive development
  • Environmental effects on cognitive phenotypes
  • The interlink between sociality, cognition, and fitness in animals
  • Habitat influences on animal cognition in anthropogenic transformed environments
  • Cognitive Ecology


Unterseiten von Animal Curiosity and Cognition