Collaborating Researcher

Professor Richard W Byrne studies the evolution of cognition, particularly the origins of distinctively human characteristics, using evidence from the field study of monkeys and apes, including his own fieldwork on baboons, chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa. In 1987, with three colleagues, he set up the Scottish Primate Research Group, which now links 21 faculty and their research teams in an informal collaboration spanning 5 Scottish universities. Professor Byrne has published 140 refereed journal articles, 69 invited book chapters, and edited 3 books. He was awarded the British Psychology Society Book Award 1997 for his O.U.P. monograph The Thinking Ape, and appointed to the fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2002. His new book, Evolving Insight, was published by Oxford University Press in March 2016. Publications can be found on https://sites.google.com/site/rwbyrnepsychology/publication-downloads


Why elephants? “If we study species in the same lineage as ourselves, we can trace back to find the origin of cognitive traits we share with animals. But that will only reflect the single, unique origin of a skill: it will tell us little about what adaptive value that ability conferred, and that led to its evolution. To do that, we need to look at species not closely related to the primate lineage, which nevertheless may have environmental or social needs for advanced cognition. Elephants are perfect for that!”


Institutional website: https://risweb.st-andrews.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/richard-william-byrne(fc2ab5b8-1acb-4e78-81ce-06a4b7ac0cc5).html

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