Dr Zanna Clay, PhD
I am a comparative and developmental psychologist with expertise in primatology. I study and compare great apes and young children in order to investigate the evolutionary and developmental basis of hominid social cognition and behavior. My main interests are the development & evolution of social cognition and communication, focussing on empathy, language and social learning.
Evolutionary & Developmental Perspectives on:
- Social cognition and communication
- Empathy & socio-emotional processes
- Language evolution
- Child gesture
- Social learning and cultural cognition
- Primate vocal communication (including referential communication & call combinations)
I am a specialist in great ape behaviour, with particular expertise in bonobos, our closest living relatives. I have experience studying bonobos in the wild, captivity and semi-captivity, including Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary - where I also act as a long-term Scientific Consultant.
I conducted my doctoral work with Prof Klaus Zuberbuhler (University of St Andrews) investigating bonobo vocal communication and language evolution. I conducted post-doctoral work with Prof Frans de Waal (Emory University, USA) examining empathy development in sanctuary-living bonobos. I conducted post-doctoral research in the Dept of Comparative Cognition, University of Neuchatel (Switzerland) studying vocal communication in wild bonobos at Lui Kotale, DR Congo (MPI-EVA).
I completed a Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the University of Birmingham with Dr Claudio Tennie examining the evolution & development of imitation and language with great apes and children.
Available PhD and MRes research projects
I would welcome applications from people interested in Comparative and Developmental Psychology, more specifically on the origins of communication, empathy and social cognition. I would be happy to supervise both experimental and observational projects working with human children (UK and cross-culturally) and primates. I have a good network of contacts to arrange access to a variety of primates, including wild, sanctuary-living and captive bonobos. For those wishing to embark on a fieldwork PhD study, experience of travel and work in third world countries is a real advantage.
Please contact me if you are interested in making an application
Department of Psychology
- Comparative Affective Science
- Evolution and development of empathy
- Evolution of language and culture
- Primate behaviour
- Primate Conservation
- Science outreach - primatology
- Social cognition
- Development of communication and social learning
- Primate vocal communication
- Animal cognition
- Child gesture development
- Applications to primate conservation
- Advanced Developmental Psychology Review
- Classic Papers
- Current Issues in Developmental Psychology & Psychopathology (MSc)
- Introduction to Psychology 2
- Research Methods in Psychology
Chapter in book
- Clay, Zanna Palagi, Elisabetta & de Waal, Frans B.M. (2018). Ethological Approaches to Empathy in Primates. In Neuronal Correlates of Empathy: From Rodent to Man. Ksenia Meyza & Ewelina Knapska Academic Press. 53-66.
- Clay, Zanna, Palagi, Elisabetta & de Waal, Frans B.M. (2017). Ethological Approaches to Empathy in Primates. In Neuronal correlates of empathy – from rodent to man. Meyza, Ksenia & Knapska, Ewelina Elsevier.
- Clay, Zanna & Genty, Emilie (2017). Natural communication in bonobos: Insights into social awareness and the evolution of language. In Bonobos: Unique in Mind Brain and Behavior. Hare, Brian & Yamamoto, Shinya Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Clay, Zanna & Zuberbuhler, Klaus (2014). Vocal communication and social awareness in chimpanzees and bonobos. In The Social Origins of Language. Dor, Daniel, Knight, Chris & Lewis, Jerome Oxford University Press.
- Clay, Zanna & Iacoboni, Marco (2011). Mirroring Fictional Others. In The Aesthetic Mind, Philosophy and Psychology. Schellekens, Elisabeth & Goldie, Peter Oxford University Press.
- Williams, Lisa A., Brosnan, Sarah F. & Clay, Zanna (2020). Anthropomorphism in comparative affective science: Advocating a mindful approach. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 115: 299-307.
- Kret,M.E,, Prochazkova, E,, Sterc, E. H. M, & Clay, Z. (2020). Emotional expressions in human and non-human great apes. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 115: 378-395.
- Grawunder, S., Crockford, C., Clay, Z., Kalan, A. K., Stevens, J. M. G., Stoessel, A. & Hohmann, G. (2018). Higher fundamental frequency in bonobos is explained by larynx morphology. Current Biology 28(20): R1188-R1189.
- Clay, Z. & Tennie, C. (2018). Is Overimitation a Uniquely Human Phenomenon? Insights From Human Children as Compared to Bonobos. Child Development 89(5): 1535-1544.
- Clay, Z., Over, H. & Tennie, C. (2018). What drives young children to over-imitate? Investigating the effects of age, context, action type, and transitivity. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 166: 520-534.
- Schamberg, Isaac, Cheney, Dorothy L., Clay, Zanna, Hohmann, Gottfried & Seyfarth, Robert M. (2017). Bonobos use call combinations to facilitate inter-party travel recruitment. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71(4): 75.
- Gruber, Thibaud & Clay, Zanna (2016). A Comparison Between Bonobos and Chimpanzees: A Review and Update. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 25(5): 239-252.
- Clay, Zanna, Ravaux, Lucie, de Waal, Frans B. M. & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2016). Bonobos (Pan paniscus) vocally protest against violations of social expectations. Journal of Comparative Psychology 130(1): 44-54.
- Schamberg, Isaac, Cheney, Dorothy L., Clay, Zanna, Hohmann, Gottfried & Seyfarth, Robert M. (2016). Call combinations, vocal exchanges and interparty movement in wild bonobos. Animal Behaviour 122: 109-116.
- Clay, Zanna, de Waal, Frans B.M. & Furuichi, Takeshi (2016). Obstacles and catalysts to peaceful coexistence in chimpanzees and bonobos. Behaviour 153(9-11): 1293-1330.
- Scarantino, Andrea & Clay, Zanna (2015). Contextually variable signals can be functionally referential. Animal Behaviour 100: e1-e8.
- Clay, Zanna, Archbold, Jahmaira & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2015). Functional flexibility in wild bonobo vocal behaviour. PeerJ 3: e1124.
- Clay, Zanna & de Waal, Frans B.M. (2015). Sex and strife: post-conflict sexual contacts in bonobos. Behaviour 152(3-4): 313-334.
- Genty, Emilie, Clay, Zanna, Hobaiter, Catherine & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2014). Multi-Modal Use of a Socially Directed Call in Bonobos. PLoS ONE 9(1): e84738.
- Clay, Zanna, Pople, Sally, Hood, Bruce & Kita, Sotaro (2014). Young Children Make Their Gestural Communication Systems More Language-Like: Segmentation and Linearization of Semantic Elements in Motion Events. Psychological Science 25(8): 1518-1525.
- Clay, Zanna & de Waal, Frans B. M. (2013). Bonobos Respond to Distress in Others: Consolation across the Age Spectrum. PLoS ONE 8(1): e55206.
- Clay, Z. & de Waal, F. B. M. (2013). Development of socio-emotional competence in bonobos. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(45): 18121-18126.
- Clay, Zanna & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2012). Communication during sex among female bonobos: effects of dominance, solicitation and audience. Scientific Reports 2: 291.
- Clay, Zanna, Smith, Carolynn L. & Blumstein, Daniel T. (2012). Food-associated vocalizations in mammals and birds: what do these calls really mean?. Animal Behaviour 83(2): 323-330.
- Clay, Zanna & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2011). Bonobos Extract Meaning from Call Sequences. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18786.
- Clay, Z., Pika, S., Gruber, T. & Zuberbuhler, K. (2011). Female bonobos use copulation calls as social signals. Biology Letters 7(4): 513.
- Clay, Zanna & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2011). The Structure of Bonobo Copulation Calls During Reproductive and Non-Reproductive Sex. Ethology 117(12): 1158-1169.
- Gruber, Thibaud, Clay, Zanna & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2010). A comparison of bonobo and chimpanzee tool use: evidence for a female bias in the Pan lineage. Animal Behaviour 80(6): 1023-1033.
- Clay, Zanna & Zuberbühler, Klaus (2009). Food-associated calling sequences in bonobos. Animal Behaviour 77(6): 1387-1396.
Available for media contact about:
- Primate behaviour: I am a comparative and devlopmental psychologist interested in origins of human behaviour from developmental and evolutionary perspectives. I study great ape communication and behaviour in order to ask questions about human evolution.
- Conflict and resolution: I am interested in the evolution of conflict resolution by studying conflict and post-conflict resolution in great apes. This extends to studying consolation, a marker of empathy.
- Aggression: I am interested in the extent to which aggression and peaceful coexistence shape the societies of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos
- Wildlife: I am passionate about supporting the conservation of primates, and am actively assist bonobo conservation in conjucntion with Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, the worlds only bonobo sanctuary
- Linguistics & Language: My research interests include the evolution of language and communication using insights from non-human primates
- Human biology and development: Development of communication, with a focus on child gesture, and socio-emotional competence in young chidren
- Psychology: Development of communication, with a focus on child gesture, and socio-emotional competence in young chidren
- Primate behaviour:
- General issues:
- Human impact:
- Human biology and development:
- Science & Technology:
- People: Evolution and Biology:
- The Earth: Animals:
- Miss Diane Austry
- Mrs Helen Donnelly
- Mr Jake Brooker
- Miss Emma Doherty
- Mr. James Rutter
- Mx Carlo Vreden
- Miss Ellice Smith
- Ms. Stephanie Kordon
- Miss Georgia Sandars
- 2019: Production and Perception of facial expressions of emotion in humans and their closest relatives (£476427.00 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
- 2018: A behavioual and physiological investigation into the development of sympathetic concern in bonobos (Pan Paniscus) (£4565.52 from National Geographic Society)
- 2018: Cross-species and cross-cultural investigation into the development of empathy in bonobos (Pan paniscus) and human children (£4315.18 from )
- 2018: European Research Council Starting Grant €1499 829.00
- 2018: Open Research Area- ESRC £589 969
- 2018: Royal Society Research Grant £14 994
- 2018: Templeton World Charity Foundation (Co-I) with PI Frans de Waal. $232 169
- 2017: British Academy Small Research Grant (Co-I) with PI Katie Slocombe £9 980
- 2015: Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship €303 742
- 2013: British Academy Small Research Grant £9 967
- 2013: Leakey Foundation Post-doctoral Research Grant $11 000
- 2013: National Geographic Research and Exploration Grant $15 000
- 2010: Grindley Grant, Experimental Psychology Society £500
- 2010: Lucie Burgers Foundation for Comparative Studies Grant €4800
- 2009: University of St Andrews School of Psychology Travel Grant
- 2018: Comparative insights into the development of emotion: Applying thermal-imaging technology to investigate empathy and socio-emotional development in great apes and children (£14994.00 from )