Amanda Lucas

Amanda Amanda Lucas

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Centre for Ecology and Conservation
University of Exeter, Cornwall campus
Penryn TR10 9FE

a.j.lucas2 AT

I am interested in the development of social understanding in infants and young children, and in how this enables us, as humans, to become cultural beings. Now having an infant myself, it is fascinating to see the theory unfolding in practice! I undertook my PhD with Charlie Lewis at Lancaster University, in which I investigated selective social learning strategies in young children. Such strategies bias the transmission of culture through particular models, according to their particular traits. My experiments explored whether children are sensitive to a model’s age and expertise when deciding whether or not to learn from them. Following the completion of my PhD I was employed by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) on a Scottish Government funded project investigating the factors that drive cultural change, and how these may be harnessed to promote behaviour change for mitigating climate change. I then moved to the University of St Andrews, where I worked with Andrew Whiten investigating the evolutionary underpinnings of cumulative culture. Here I was involved in exploring the emergence of different cultures of tool use and problem solving strategies using ‘open diffusion’ and ‘transmission chain’ experiments. These studies examined how solutions to problems are invented, socially transmitted and further improved upon, both within groups of children and across experimental ‘generations’. I took up my new position at Exeter University’s Cornwall campus in August 2015.

  • New paper with UWA collaborators in Nature: Cognitive performance is linked to group size and affects fitness in Australian magpies.

    New HFSP grant: Collective behaviour and information transmission in heterogeneous societies. Collaborating with Nick Ouellette (Stanford) and Richard Vaughan (SFU)


    Cooperative breeding doesn’t make you smarter. New paper open access in Journal of Zoology


    New TREE paper: The evolution of individual and cultural variation in social learning

    New paper on human cumulative culture in Scientific Reports


    Jackdaws recognise human faces! Gabrielle’s new paper is out. See coverage on ITV and BBC


    New ESRC grant! Cognitive Requirements of Cumulative Culture: Expts with Typically Developing and Autistic People. Collaborating with Christine Caldwell & Francesca Happé

    New paper with Oxford collaborators in Nature: cultural conformity in great tits

    Enormous congratulations to Gabrielle who passed her PhD viva. Well done Dr Davidson!

    Comparative cognition can help conservation: read Alison’s new paper in TREE












    Coverage of Gabrielle’s Biology Letters paper in the press and on YouTube












    Gabrielle has a new paper accepted in Biology Letters! 


    Gabrielle’s gaze sensitivity review is out!













    Took part in our survey about corvids in your garden? Click here to see preliminary results.

    New publications: 

    - Comparative cognition for conservationists. Trends Ecol. Evol.

    - Towards wild psychometrics. Behav. Ecol.

    - How and why are some animals so smart?. Behav. Ecol.

    - Jackdaw nestlings can discriminate between conspecific calls but do not beg specifically to their parents. Behav. Ecol.

    – Salient eyes deter conspecific nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula). Biol. Lett.

    – Gaze sensitivity: function and mechanisms from sensory and cognitive perspectives. Anim. Behav.

    – Heterogeneous structure in mixed-species corvid flocks in flight. Anim. Behav.

    Animal Minds: Phil. Trans. issueAnimal Minds e1345931827281 Amanda Lucas

    -Identification of learning mechanisms in a wild meerkat population. PloS ONE

    – Innovative problem-solving in wild meerkats. Anim. Behav.

    – How do banded mongooses locate and select anvils for cracking encased food items? Behav. Proc.

    – Teaching can teach us a lot. Anim. Behav.

    – Cooperation and punishment in nature. TREE