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Durham University

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Professor Robert A. Barton, BSc, M.Sc, PhD

Director (Social Sciences) in the Institute of Advanced Study

Contact Professor Robert A. Barton


Evolutionary biologist/anthropologist interested in brains, behaviour and cognition, using phylogenetoic comparative methods to study how these traits evolved. Developed and tested the 'Visual brain hypothesis' for primate brain size evolution. Currently interested in the underestimated role of the cerebellum in brain evolution and cognition. Also works on the evolutionary and cultural significance of the colour red.

Recent projects include: 'The Phylogeny of Sleep' (funded by NIH, $1m); 'Evolutionary architecture of reproduction in female mammals' (funded by BBSRC/NERC, £248k); 'Cognitive Evolution and the brain' (Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, £38k).


    • 2018: Osman Hill Memorial medal awarded by Primate Society of Great Britain:
    • Leverhulme Research Fellow (2012-13) - Cognitive evolution and the brain
    • Visting Research Fellow, All Souls Collge Oxford (2011) - Evolution of human cognition
    • President, European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (2010-2013)
    • Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology (2005-)
    • President, Primate Society of Great Britain (2001-2005)
    • PhD in Primate Behavioural Ecology (1990)

    Research Groups

    Department of Anthropology

    Research Projects

    Department of Anthropology

    Research Interests

    • Behavioural ecology and sociobiology
    • Comparative studies of brain size and structure in relation to behavioural ecology
    • Evolution of mamalian reproductive traits
    • Primate evolution and behaviour

    Indicators of Esteem

    Selected Publications

    Show all publications

    Media Contacts

    Available for media contact about:

    • Human biology and development: animal behaviour
    • Human biology and development: evolutionary theory
    • Human biology and development: the brain
    • People: Evolution and Biology: animal behaviour
    • People: Evolution and Biology: evolutionary theory
    • People: Evolution and Biology: the brain


    Selected Grants

    • 2012: Cognitive Evolution and the Brain (£39013.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
    • 2008: EVOLUTIONARY ARCHITECTURE (£249647.07 from Bbsrc)
    • 2006: RCUK FELLOWSHIP (£125000.00 from Epsrc)
    • 2006: RCUK FELLOWSHIP (£125000.00 from Epsrc)
    • 2005: PHYLOGENY OF SLEEP (£128138.22 from National Institutes of Health)