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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Raphaela Heesen, PhD

Research Associate in the Department of Psychology
Room number: RH016

Contact Dr Raphaela Heesen (email at

I am interested in comparative research on human and nonhuman great ape communication and social cognition. Specifically, I investigate how communication is used to express emotions and to coordinate joint activities. I am also interested in comparing the structure of communicative repertoires between humans and nonhuman animal species, in particuar nonhuman great apes (applying methods of quantitative linguistics). With such comparative research outputs, I attempt to tackle broader questions related to the evolution of human language, emotion and cooperation.

In my current post-doctoral appointment with Dr Zanna Clay, I combine naturalistic behavioral observations and experimental designs to study differences in expression/perception of emotion in humans and great apes. Our methods involve behavioral coding, paired with diverse psycho-physiological techniques (e.g., thermal imaging, eye-tracking, heart rate measures and galvanic skin conductance).

Research Interests

  • Communication
  • Evolution of social intelligence
  • Joint action

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Heesen R., Sievers C., Gruber T. & Clay Z. (Accepted). Primate communication: Affective, intentional, or both? In Primate Cognitive Studies. B. L. Schwartz & M. J. Beran Cambridge University Press.

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Evolution:

Selected Grants

  • 2016: Kölner Gymnasial- und Stiftungsfond Doctoral Scholarship (3,800€)
  • 2015: Kölner Gymnasial- und Stiftungsfond Masters Scholarship (4.500€)
  • 2012: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Bachelor Student Scholarship (5,400€)