The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

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Biological and Experimental Psychology

Research in this area focuses on the ultimate (evolutionary) and proximate (genetic, developmental and neurobiological) mechanisms responsible for cognition and behaviour. A central consideration for this group concerns cognitive evolution and the biological basis of human cognition and social behaviour. We also place a strong emphasis on the experimental approach to research problems in these fields of psychology.

Innovative and interdisciplinary research explores how environmental factors and biological mechanism underlie perception, cognition and behaviour. We study these questions from multiple perspectives using both animal models and humans.

Our recent research using animal models has explored:

  • How foraging bees solve the traveling salesman problem;
  • How brain gene expression influences memory formation in songbirds;
  • How vocalisations can be used to assess animal welfare;
  • Whether zebrafish are a viable model for studying impulse control, attention and addiction.

Research with humans has:

  • Elucidated how the sense of control modulates our assessment of threats and responses to complex dynamic environments;
  • Which factors underlie creative thought;
  • How social relations and gene-environment interactions can influence health, well-being and developmental trajectories.  






Selected publications in this research area

Jetten J, Haslam C, Haslam SA et al. (2014) . How Groups Affect Our Health and Well-Being: The Path from Theory to Policy. SOCIAL ISSUES AND POLICY REVIEW vol. 8, (1) 103-130.

Jones JM, Williams WH, Jetten J et al. (2012) . The role of psychological symptoms and social group memberships in the development of post-traumatic stress after traumatic injury. Br J Health Psychol vol. 17, (4) 798-811.

Jones JM, Jetten J (2011) . Recovering from strain and enduring pain: Multiple group memberships promote resilience in the face of novel physical challenges. Social Psychological and Personality Science vol. 3, 239-243.

Baciadonna L, McElligott AG, Briefer EF (2013) . Goats favour personal over social information in an experimental foraging task. PeerJ vol. 1,

Briefer EF, McElligott AG (2013) . Rescued goats at a sanctuary display positive mood after former neglect. Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol. 146, (1-4) 45-55.

Chittka L, Peng F (2013) . Neuroscience. Caffeine boosts bees' memories. Science vol. 339, (6124) 1157-1159.

Collett M, Chittka L, Collett TS (2013) . Spatial memory in insect navigation. Curr Biol vol. 23, (17) R789-R800.

Dawson EH, Avarguès-Weber A, Chittka L et al. (2013) . Learning by observation emerges from simple associations in an insect model. Curr Biol vol. 23, (8) 727-730.

Faruq S, McOwan PW, Chittka L (2013) . The biological significance of color constancy: an agent-based model with bees foraging from flowers under varied illumination. J Vis vol. 13, (10)

Mareschal I, Calder AJ, Clifford CW Humans have an expectation that gaze is directed toward them. Curr Biol 23(8):717-721 22 Apr 2013

Mareschal I, Calder AJ, Dadds MR et al. (2013) . Gaze categorization under uncertainty: psychophysics and modeling. J Visvol. 13, (5)

Pitcher BJ, Mesoudi A, McElligott AG (2013) . Sex-biased sound symbolism in english-language first names. PLoS One vol. 8, (6)

Pluess M, Belsky J (2013) . Vantage sensitivity: individual differences in response to positive experiences. Psychol Bullvol. 139, (4) 901-916.

Briefer EF, Padilla de la Torre M, McElligott AG (2012) . Mother goats do not forget their kids' calls. Proc Biol Sci vol. 279, (1743) 3749-3755.

Chittka L, Dyer A (2012) . Cognition: Your face looks familiar. Nature vol. 481, (7380) 154-155.

Drnevich J, Replogle KL, Lovell P et al. (2012) . Impact of experience-dependent and independent factors on gene expression in songbird brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A vol. 109 Suppl 2, 17245-17252.

Lihoreau M, Chittka L, Le Comber SC et al. (2012) . Bees do not use nearest-neighbour rules for optimization of multi-location routes. Biol Lett vol. 8, (1) 13-16.

Osman M (2012) . The role of reward in dynamic decision making. Front Neurosci vol. 6,

Osman M, Speekenbrink M (2012) . Prediction and control in a dynamic environment. Front Psychol vol. 3,

Parker M, Brennan CH (2012) . Low and Moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy: effects on social behaviour and propensity to develop substance abuse in later life. BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (13) 1671-1672.

Richards A, HANNON EM, Vitkovitch M (2012) . Distracted by distractors: eye movements in a dynamic inattentional blindness task. Consciousness and Cognition vol. 21, (1) 170-176.

Eilola TM, Havelka, J (2011) . Behavioural and physiological responses to the emotional and taboo Stroop tasks in native and non-native speakers of English. International Journal of Bilingualism vol. 15, (3) 353-369.

Pluess M, Velders FP, Belsky J et al. (2011) . Serotonin transporter polymorphism moderates effects of prenatal maternal anxiety on infant negative emotionality. Biol Psychiatry vol. 69, (6) 520-525.

Bird CD, Emery NJ (2010) . Rooks perceive support relations similar to six-month-old babies. Proc Biol Sci vol. 277, (1678) 147-151.

Briefer E, Vannoni E, McElligott AG (2010) . Quality prevails over identity in the sexually selected vocalisations of an ageing mammal. BMC Biol vol. 8,

Osman M (2010) . Controlling Uncertainty: A Review of Human Behavior in Complex Dynamic Environments. Psychological Bulletin vol. 136, (1) 65-86.

Skorupski P, Chittka L (2010) . Differences in photoreceptor processing speed for chromatic and achromatic vision in the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris. J Neurosci vol. 30, (11) 3896-3903.

Belsky J, Pluess M (2009) . Beyond diathesis stress: differential susceptibility to environmental influences. Psychol Bullvol. 135, (6) 885-908.

Bird CD, Emery NJ (2009) . Insightful problem solving and creative tool modification by captive nontool-using rooks. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A vol. 106, (25) 10370-10375.

Chittka L, Niven J (2009) . Are bigger brains better?. Curr Biol vol. 19, (21) R995-R1008.

Chittka L, Skorupski P, Raine NE (2009) . Speed-accuracy tradeoffs in animal decision making. Trends Ecol Evol vol. 24, (7) 400-407.

Crinion JT, Green DW, Chung R et al. (2009) . Neuroanatomical markers of speaking Chinese. Hum Brain Mapp vol. 30, (12) 4108-4115.

Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2009) . Comparative social cognition. Annu Rev Psychol vol. 60, 87-113.

Pluess M, Belsky J (2009) . Differential susceptibility to rearing experience: the case of childcare. J Child Psychol Psychiatry vol. 50, (4) 396-404.

Ings TC, Chittka L (2008) . Speed-Accuracy Tradeoffs and False Alarms in Bee Responses to Cryptic Predators. CURR BIOL vol. 18, (19) 1520-1524.

Muller H, Chittka L (2008) . Animal personalities: the advantage of diversity. Curr Biol vol. 18, (20) R961-R963.

Osman M (2008) . Positive transfer and negative transfer/anti-learning of problem-solving skills. J Exp Psychol Gen vol. 137, (1) 97-115.

Vannoni E, McElligott AG (2008) . Low frequency groans indicate larger and more dominant fallow deer (Dama dama) males. PLoS One vol. 3, (9)

Chittka L, Osorio D (2007) . Cognitive dimensions of predator responses to imperfect mimicry?. PLOS BIOL vol. 5, (12) Article e339, 2754-2758.

Dyer AG, Whitney HM, Arnold SEJ et al. (2006) . Bees associate warmth with floral colour. NATURE vol. 442, (7102) 525-525.

Skorupski P, Chittka L (2006) . Animal cognition: An insect's sense of time?. CURR BIOL vol. 16, (19) R851-R853.

Dally JM, Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2006) . Food-caching western scrub-jays keep track of who was watching when. SCIENCEvol. 312, (5780) 1662-1665.

Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2004) . The mentality of crows: Convergent evolution of intelligence in corvids and apes. SCIENCE vol. 306, (5703) 1903-1907.

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