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The ScienceCampus Lecture Series

scientific presentation in the DPZ lecture hall. Photo: Alessio Anania

In the ScienceCampus Lecture series, international scientists present their research on current topics of behavior and cognition of human and non-human primates. The lectures usually take place on Thursdays at 16:15 in the Michael-Lankeit-Lecture Hall of the German Primate Center.

Due to restrictions in the course of the Covid19 pandemic, the lecture series is currently held online via Zoom. Since the guest speakers* are from different time zones, the lectures take place at different times of the day. Links to access the lectures are sent to all members of the ScienceCampus by email, but will not be made public for security reasons. Interested parties who are not automatically notified are welcome to sign up for our free notifications by sending an email.

Recordings of selected lectures can be found on our YouTube channel.



The programme in the winter term 2020/21

June 3, 2021, 15.00:

Lauren Robinson (Georgia State University / KLIVV Vienna): Primate personality and health, welfare, and happiness

Animals are individuals and as such, they have differ in how they think, feel, and act, known as their personality. These differences in personality may explain why some animals do better in captivity than others and help us understand differences in their welfare and happiness. In this talk I will discuss the relationship between primate welfare and personality with a focus on my own work on observer ratings of welfare.


July 1, 2021, 15.00:

Martin Schulte-Rüther (University Medical Center Göttingen): title tba



April 29, 2021, 15.00:

Manon K Schweinfurth (University of St. Andrews): The origins of reciprocal help

If only those behaviours evolve that increase the actor’s own survival and reproductive success, then it might come as a surprise that cooperative behaviours, e.g., helping by providing benefits to others, are a widespread phenomenon. Many animals cooperate even with unrelated individuals in various contexts, like providing care or food. One possibility to explain these behaviours is reciprocity. Reciprocal cooperation, i.e., helping those that were helpful before, is a ubiquitous and important trait of human sociality. Still, the evolutionary and psychological origins of it are largely unclear, mainly because it is believed that other animals do not exchange help reciprocally. Consequently, reciprocity is suggested to have evolved in the human lineage only. In contrast to this, I propose that reciprocity is not necessarily cognitively demanding and likely to be widespread. In my talk, I will first shed light on the mechanisms of reciprocal cooperation in Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). In a series of studies, my colleagues and I have demonstrated that Norway rats reciprocally exchange goods and services between and within different commodities and independent of kinship. Furthermore, to understand the evolutionary origins of human reciprocity, and whether it is shared with other animals, I will then discuss evidence for reciprocity in non-human primates, which are our closest living relatives. A thorough analysis of the findings showed that reciprocity is present and, for example, not confined to unrelated individuals, but that the choice of commodities can impact the likelihood of reciprocation. Based on my findings, I conclude that reciprocal cooperation in non-human animals is present but largely neglected and not restricted to humans. In order to deepen our understanding of the origins of reciprocity in more general, future studies should investigate when and how reciprocity in non-human animals emerged and how it is maintained.


May 6, 2021, 15.00:

Ian Phillips (John Hopkins University): Bewitched by Blindsight

Textbooks tell us that, across a range of paradigms and conditions, perception parts ways with consciousness. The poster child is blindsight: a neuropsychological disorder defined by residual visual function following destruction of primary visual cortex. Blindsight is especially striking because residual visual function apparently includes capacities for voluntary discrimination in the total absence of awareness. Together with other neuropsychological disorders (e.g., hemineglect and visual form agnosia) and studies of neurotypical vision (e.g., under inattention or suppression), blindsight has revolutionised our thinking about visual consciousness, seemingly revealing a dramatic disconnect between performance and awareness, and motivating diverse theories of the neural and cognitive basis of consciousness. Counter to this orthodoxy, I’ll argue that blindsight is in fact severely and qualitatively degraded but nonetheless conscious vision. This residual conscious vision appears unconscious only because of conservative and unstable response criteria. A series of psychophysical and functional arguments against this interpretation are answered. And a range of consistent behavioral and first-person evidence is presented. This evidence helps answer the question of what it is like to have blindsight, as well as to account for the conservative and selectively unstable response criteria exhibited by patients. In closing, I’ll consider what lessons we can learn for the study of consciousness more generally, both in clinical and neurotypical vision.


Dana Pefferle +49 551 3851-361 Contact Profile

James Stranks Contact Profile

Antonio Calapai

Antonio Calapai +49 551 3851-345 Contact Profile

previous lectures

Winter term 2020/21