Monkeys, minds and man

Wednesday 11 March 2009


A thinking ape. (Credit: Zanna Clay)

Researchers at the University of St Andrews will provide a window into the mind-reading tricks and abilities of monkeys and apes this week. (Wednesday, March 11th)

Dr Juan-Carlos Gomez will explain how monkeys and apes use gaze and body gestures to crack the problem of reading other minds in a public lecture at the University.

The academic from the School of Psychology, will be joined by colleagues Professor Klaus Zuberbuhler and Dr Valerie Dufour to explore the origins of intelligence at the event, “Monkeys, Minds and Man”.

Dr Juan-Carlos Gomez said, “Recent research suggests human common behaviour such as following the gaze of others have deep evolutionary roots and may hold the key to understanding how we became such accomplished mind-readers, as well as how in conditions like autism mind-reading may fail to develop correctly.”

The event is organised by the St Andrews University Ape Society to raise awareness of primate research and conservation, examining the origin of human traits and abilities.

An insight into the primate roots of human language will be presented by Professor Klaus Zuberbuhler while Dr Valerie Dufour will discuss the origins of trade.

Professor Zuberbuhler explained, “Biologically, we are just another primate species. In describing the behavioural complexity and communication skills of our closest living relatives we hope to raise awareness of the intrinsic beauty of these animals and their minds, and their key importance in understanding our own current behaviour and evolutionary past.

“Our direct ancestors have all but disappeared and only left us a very sketchy fossil record. Our living relatives, however, are still here and they are able to tell us, with unprecedented details, about the ways in which we are uniquely human, the ways in which we are simply primates, and where our humanity came from.”

Dr Valerie Dufour will examine what great apes can tell us about the evolution of economics by presenting recent research on the capacities of animals and especially non human primates to trade with each other.

In the talk “let’s make a deal”, she will explore whether other primate possess the “intellectual” pre-requisites for economics, and to what extent this might be similar to trading as observed in humans.

The public lecture, which is part of the Darwin 200 celebrations and Fife Science Week, will take place at 6pm in the Old Library, St Marys Quadrangle on South Street on Wednesday, March 11th.

All are welcome to attend the event which will be followed by a wine reception.



The researchers are available for interview:

Dr Juan-Carlos Gomez on Tel: 01334 462059 or email: [email protected]

Professor Klaus Zuberbuhler on Tel: 01334 462080 or email: [email protected]

Dr Valerie Dufour on email: [email protected]



Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email: [email protected]
Ref:  monkeys, minds & man 110309
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