Emily J. E. Messer


  • EH14 4AS

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students


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Research interests

Emily is a primatologist and a keen science communicator interested in social behaviour, learning, teaching, conformity, cultural evolution, science and religion, and prosociality. Broadly, she is interested in exploring how different social and cultural contexts influence innovation, learning, and the transmission of information in primates. She works with children in diverse global populations, apes, and monkeys.


Emily graduated from The University of Dundee with a BSc Hons in Biology and then went on to do a PhD at the University of St Andrews in Psychology and Neuroscience; her thesis investigated social learning and social behaviour in capuchin and squirrel monkeys. Since finishing her PhD in 2014, she has done postdocs at The University of St Andrews and Heriot-Watt University in the U.K. and the University of Texas at Austin in the USA, working with capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees, and children studying cognitive, comparative, cross-cultural, and developmental psychology. She has worked worldwide with non-academic staff, faculty, researchers, and volunteers on public engagement exhibits (at science festivals and open days on health and medicine and comparative research), talks (to public audiences at visitor centres on primate behaviour), workshops and courses (providing hands-on experiences and information on animal training), curriculum-guided educational tools (introducing scientific principles to school children on neuroscience), consultancy work (e.g. promoting science and religion), and a documentary (Curious Cures with David Attenborough). She is a keen collaborator and has conducted research with diverse human populations in museums (National Museum of Scotland, Thinkery), zoos (Edinburgh), schools (in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife, Tanna, and Austin), local communities (in Vanuatu), and laboratories (Center for Children’s Research), and with non-human primates in zoos (Edinburgh, Cockermouth) and the wild (Trinidad).

Emily joined Heriot-Watt University as an Assistant Professor in January 2022. 


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