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Dr Bruce Rawlings

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology


Picture of Bruce

Come and work with me!

I am interested in and happy to supervise Masters by Reserch (which can be one year full time or two years part time), and PhD students in any of the following topics, or related ones (please do email me if you’d like to discuss or chat):

  • The development of tool innovation, including across cultures
  • The development of creativity, including across cultures
  • The development of imitation and overimitation
  • Individual, social and/or cognitive influences on imitation and innovation in children
  • Comparative (particularly children and chimpanzees) perspectives on innovation and imitation
  • Cumulative cultural evolution in general

I am also recruiting research assistants (Bachelor's level Year 1 - 3), to assist with projects in these areas.


I am the co-director of the Durham Cultural Evolution Research Centre (DCERC)

My research uses developmental, cross-cultural, and comparative methods to study cognition, with a particular focus on the psychology of cultural evolution. I am currently particularly interested in studying the development of tool innovation from cognitive, social, and comparative perspectives. I also study the factors influencing the development of imitation and overimitation in children.

PhD supervision students

  • Sayyeda Rubab (PI Dr Patricia Kanngiesser, University of Plymouth), 2022-present: The development of creativity across cultures

Recent funding

2024-2027: ESRC New Investigator Award: Developing a culturally fair framework for measuring the development of tool innovation across cultures (£300,000). Role: PI.

2023-2027: ESRC: Age-based imitation bias throughout development, during daily interactions, and across culture (£974,227). PI Sheina Lew-Levy. Role: Co-investigator 

2022-2025: Does big culture require big brains? Collective intelligence in roaches and rats. Diverse Intelligences, PI Sarah Brosnan. $233,968. 

2022: Time for some introspection: Can we improve our protocols in cross-cultural developmental research? Workshop funding awarded by the Cultural Evolution Society. £1,000.  


I did my undergraduate degree in psychology at Plymouth University. From there, I did a master's degree in cognitive neuroscience at the University of York. I then took several research assistant projects examining chimpanzee and capuchin monkey social learning and social dynamics, including doing research in Piaui, Brazil (capuchins) as well as Edinbugh Zoo and Chimfunshi Wildlife Orhphanage, Zambia (chimpanzees). I then did a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University where I studied social learning and innovation in children and chimpanzees (housed in Texas). After my PhD, I did a three year postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin studying cross-cultural variation in imitation and innovation in children from all over the world, as well as comparatively, with chimpanzees.

Research interests

  • Comparative research (particularly chimpanzees)
  • Cross-cultural research
  • Cumulative cultural evolution
  • Developmental research
  • Imitation
  • Innovation (particularly tool innovation) and creativity


Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students