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News & Announcements

Laboratory Newsletter

This issue of the lab newsletter includes a message from the director, results from studies conducted in our lab as well as descriptions for on-going and future projects.

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Working With Orangutans - Smithsonian Magazine

What makes human and orangutan brains different? Researchers at the National Zoo hope to find out by playing customized computer games with the savvy primates.



National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Primate Social Cognition

The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park (SI/NZP) in collaboration with The George Washington University (GWU) Ape Mind Initiate (AMI) is soliciting applications from qualified candidates with a doctoral degree and a specialization in Primate Social Cognition. The primary focus of the research is to support a National Science Foundation funded program, “The Evolution of Cultural Learning” directed by Dr. Francys Subiaul and Lisa Stevens. This comparative research program focuses on studying social and cultural learning in human children and great apes (subiaul.com/ami.html). Applicants with laboratory experience working with non-human primates and an interest in social learning are strongly encouraged to apply. This position is part of the Think Tank and Great Ape House research program, which are home to 6 orangutans and 6 gorillas. Emphasis will be placed on a new education/research direction that will involve the public as well as high school and university students in the research program.

The position is for 1 year with the possibility of renewal. Salary will be competitive but limited by NSF funding constraints. Applications should be sent electronically and include: (1) a one page letter of research stating how the applicant’s own interests and experiences are compatible with the funded research program, (2) a CV, (3) and the names of three referees including emails and current affiliation. Applicants should submit all application materials to Dr. F. Subiaul subiaul@gwu.edu and Lisa Stevens (stevenslm@si.edu) by June 30th 2010. We will continue to review applications if no applicant is identified before June 30th. Questions about the zoo program may be directed to Lisa Stevens, Curator, Primates and Giant Pandas. Questions about on-going research studies may be directed to Francys Subiaul. Only complete applications and candidates with doctoral degrees (or those who anticipate a Ph.D. by the start of the appointment in August/September) will be considered.

Subiaul Social Cognition Lab received award to explore social learning in infants and monkeys using eye-tracking technology.

The Subiaul Social Cognition Laboratory in the George Washington University was recently awarded an EAGER grant, Gaze Click: A new means of assessing cognitive competence in non-verbal populations (BCS-0946376) [$199,873]. This project seeks to develop a new paradigm for the purposes of studying pre-verbal and non-verbal populations. Specifically, studies will compare the individual- and observational-learning abilities of pre-verbal human infants and non-verbal monkeys using an entirely new experimental paradigm that combines eye-tracking and “gaze-click” technology. Gaze click effectively allows non-verbal participants (i.e., infants and monkeys) to make responses on a computerized task using either eye blinks or gaze fixation that are equivalent to a mouse click or physical response. The development of an experimental paradigm that allows pre-verbal and non-verbal populations to make a declarative, rather than a passive, implicit, or reflexive response, may dramatically alter our understanding of both the development and evolution of a cornerstone of human cognition, imitation.

The broader impact of this project is three-fold. First, studies will lead to unique educational and research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. Second, research comparing individual, observational and imitation learning in human infants and monkeys has the potential to transform our understanding of the development and evolution of social learning in these populations. Finally, results from these studies have the potential to transform comparative and developmental research as it allows investigators to ask more questions of non-verbal populations in greater detail using more objective measures; proving scientists and educators with unique insights into how such minds learn, think and acquire knowledge from others.

Press & Media

Zoogoer - magazine coverSome of our work has been featured in national and international press outlets.

Zoogoer magazine has just published a report on Dr. Subiaul and his research activities in the National Zoo.

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Our study in Animal Cognition on chimpanzee's ability to learn from others appeared in the following news magazines: Science Daily News, Medical News Today, Biology News, and the Times of India

Our work on cognitive imitation in monkeys has appeared in a number of news outlets including: Science Now.

A profile on Dr. Subiaul by The George Washington University Magazine ByGeorge: http://www.gwu.edu/~newsctr/newscenter/research/subiaul/index.cfm

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