Real-world neuroscience


Presentation of research activities

This unit’s main research focus is social learning and the origins of culture, with field work as the leading experimental approach. Its activity within The Sense is related to the Perception & Cognition axis, and more specifically to Real-World Neuroscience. By presenting a primate model other than human, its research work allows us to test the evolutionary roots of behaviour studied by other researchers within The Sense. For my group, The Sense is a unique opportunity to collaborate with other researchers who focus on the brain and develop research topics through comparative cognition between humans and non-humans.

Erica Van de Waal

Erica van de Waal is internationally recognized for her work and has received numerous awards and grants, including three from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Advanced Postdoc Mobility in 2014, Research grant in 2015 and Professorship grant in 2017), a grant from the Society in Science Branco Weiss (2014) and an ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council (received in 2020 for a project which began in 2021). A sought-after scientist, she has published approximately forty articles in reputable peer-reviewed science journals such as Science (2013), Proceedings of the Royal Society B (2010), PLoS One (two in 2012, then in 2013), Animal Behaviour (two in 2011, then in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017), International Journal of Primatology (2013), Current Biology (2018) and Nature Communications (2020). Moreover, she dedicates some of her time to teaching undergrad and postgraduate classes and has supervised several Master’s and PhD students.

1015 Lausanne
Projet iNkawu Vervet


Key publications


Wild primates copy higher-ranked individuals in a social transmission experiment.

Canteloup, C., Hoppitt, W., & van de Waal, E. 2020.
Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-10.

Payoff- and sex-biased social learning interact in a wild primate population.

Bono, A., Whiten, A., van Schaik, C., Kruetzen, M., Eichenberger, F., Schider, A., & van de Waal E. 2018.
Current Biology, 28(17), 2800-2805.

Social learning, culture and the ‘socio-cultural brain’ of human and non-human primates.

Whiten, A., & van de Waal, E. 2017.
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 82, 58-75

Potent social learning and conformity shape a wild primate’s foraging decisions.

van de Waal, E., Borgeaud, C., & Whiten, A. 2013.
Science, 340 (6131), 483-485.

Selective attentionto philopatric models causes directed social learning in wild vervet monkeys.

van de Waal, E., Renevey, N., Favre, C. M., & Bshary, R. 2010.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 277, 2105-2111