Emily Messer

  • Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Evolution, Variation, and Ontogeny of Learning (EVO-Learn) Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin


She is a primatologist with research interests in social behaviour, learning, culture, and prosociality. She graduated with a BSc Hons in Biology from The University of Dundee where she first started studying primates. In 2013 she completed a PhD. in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews researching social learning and social behaviour in capuchin and squirrel monkeys. Since finishing her PhD, she has done postdocs at The University of St Andrews and Heriot-Watt University in the U.K., studying causal understanding, executive functions, pedagogy, and prosociality working with capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees, and children. Currently she is a research associate in Professor Cristine Legare’s EvoLearn Lab at The University of Texas in Austin working on a National Science Foundation-funded project examining cross cultural variation in learning and teaching in children. Her broad research interests are in comparative, cross-cultural, developmental and evolutionary psychology specifically focused on how social influence impacts the spread of behavioural variants in primates.

Academic biography


Research topics

  1. What are the patterns of experimental or natural behavioural variant(s) spread in groups of primates (monkeys, apes, and children)?
  2. How do social and cultural factors impact on the spread of learnt behaviours (and vice versa)?
  3. The impact of social influence on the development of other-regard (prosocial tendencies) in children