skip to content

Current CCL Members:

Prof. Nicky Clayton: Professor of Comparative Cognition, FRS

  • I am interested in the development and evolution of cognition, in both humans and non-human animals, particularly corvids. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. Together with Clive Wilkins, I am co-founder of The Captured Thought, the Founding Director of the Cambridge Centre for the Integration of Science, Technology, and Culture, and an Honourary Director of Studies and Advisor for China-UK Development Centre. I have been the 2019 President of the British Association, Psychology section. I am also a dancer, collaborating with Clive Wilkins and Mark Baldwin. I am Scientist in Residence at Rambert, the UK's flagship touring dance company (originally called Ballet Rambert). 

Dr. Maria J. Cabrera-Álvarez: Laboratory Manager and Research Associate

  • I am a behavioural ecologist and neuroscientist with an interest in comparative cognition and social behaviour in animals. I currently work as Laboratory Manager and Research Associate at Nicky Clayton's Lab, where I support the research of my colleagues and teach lectures at the Psychology Department.

Dr. Rachael Miller (Harrison): Research associate within the Causcog project

  • I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, and a member of Nicky Clayton's Comparative Cognition lab. I am broadly interested in the evolution of intelligence. My research currently focuses on comparative cognition in humans - both children and adults - and corvids, particularly on the development of physical cognitive abilities, including causal reasoning. In addition, I am exploring the possible applications of cognition research for conservation purposes.

Dr. Alex Schnell

  • Cephalopods are renowned for their remarkable behaviours, leading to claims of complex intelligence. The prospect that intelligence emerged independently in cephalopods challenges the provenance of human intelligence. Present knowledge of cephalopod intelligence is largely based on observation, therefore claims of higher cognition remain largely unsupported by quantitative data. Thus the question of how intelligent cephalopods are relative to cognitively advanced vertebrates remains unanswered. I will address this question by assessing complex learning and memory in cephalopods and corvids (a group of intelligent birds) using a comparative framework. This research will provide a unique perspective for understanding the origins of complex cognition. 

​Dr Gabrielle Davidson: Leverhulme-Newton Trust Early Career Research Fellow

  • Gabrielle is a comparative psychologist and a behavioural ecologist with a keen interest in the development, function and evolution of cognition through the study of individual differences within species. She is currently investigating the interplay between the microbial community in the gut (microbiome) and host behaviour and cognition and has used both great tits (Parus major) and pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) as study systems. As the foundations of her research depend on good measures of cognitive traits, she has focused on developing rigorous cognitive tasks to investigate the causes and consequences of variation in intelligence in wild populations. Other interests include predator-prey interactions and her doctoral work investigated how wild birds (rooks, jackdaws, crows and great tits) responded to where others are looking (i.e. gaze sensitivity), and how this influences decision-making when foraging, finding nesting locations, guarding chicks and escaping predators.

Dr. Alizée Vernouillet: Visiting Research Associate

  • I am a visiting research associate at Nicky Clayton’s Comparative Cognition Lab. I am broadly interested in the influence of sociality, and ecological factors such as foraging strategies, on shaping a species’ behavioural and cognitive abilities. For this purpose, I use a comparative approach to investigate animal personality, social cognition, self-control, and abstract concept learning in a variety of species, with particular focus on corvids, dogs, and humans. Additionally, I study the effect of habitat selection on the survival and reproductive success of animals. Other interests include combining both ecological and cognitive lines of research for conservation purposes.

Dr. Luigi Baciadonna: Post-Doctoral Research Assistant

  • I joined Nicky Clayton's Comparative Cognition lab in September 2018 as Post-Doctoral Research Assistant within the project "Reflecting on tests of animal consciousness: birds as a model", funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and awarded to Dr Nathan J. Emery (Queen Mary University of London) and Prof Nicola Clayton. My broad research interest is the study of animal cognition and behaviour with a focus on the emotion-cognition interface. Currently, I am working on a project that investigates how consciousness evolved and whether non-human animals are self-aware.

Elias Garcia: Research Assistant

  • I am a research assistant at Nicky Clayton's Comparative Cognition lab. I am interested in the use of complex social learning mechanisms in corvids and children, as well as metacognition and number development. My current research focuses on comparative causal cognition in corvids and humans.

Pauline Billard: PhD Student

  • I am a PhD student supervised by Nicky Clayton at the Comparative Cognition lab and Christelle Jozet-Alves at EthoS lab (Caen, France). My work focuses on Mental Time Travel in cephalopods (cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis) and birds (European jays, Garrulus glandarius). I am more specifically interested in source memory, a crucial component of the episodic memory. Remembering the source of an episodic memory includes retrieving specific details encoded when the memory was formed (percepts, sensations, context, etc.). The aim of my thesis is to investigate if cuttlefish and jays can remember the characteristics composing an episodic memory and use this information with flexibility. The memory of the source has only been poorly investigated in animals, yet comparative studies are needed to better understand how this complex cognitive ability evolved across species.

Ning Ding: PhD Student

  • I am a PhD student supervised by Prof. Nicky Clayton. I earned my bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of St Andrews and completed Masters course at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge. I am broadly interested in children's cognitive development, especially their ability to think and plan for the future. As a native Chinese, my research also investigate the influence of culture on children's cognitive development and parenting practices.

Ben Farrar: PhD Student

  • I am interested in the reliability and reproducibility of research and statistical methods in animal cognition, as well as social cognition in corvids and humans.

Jamie DuBois: PhD Student

  • I am a PhD student working under the supervision of Professor Nicky Clayton at the Comparative Cognition Lab. My love for comparative cognition started during my undergraduate studies when I worked as a neuroscience research assistant in Dr Brent Cooper’s lab at TCU where I conducted my honours thesis for the John V. Roach Honors College on vocal learning in Bengalese finches. I then went on to earn my MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. There, I conducted research with Professor Josep Call on face-name recognition in chimpanzees at the Budongo Research Unit in the Edinburgh Zoo. Currently, my research interests include vocal learning and imitation as well as auditory perception, especially in the avian family. I also have interests in domestication and the effects this can have on animal cognition.

Emily Danby: BBSRC Lab Rotation Doctoral Student

Amy Hudgson: BBSRC Lab Rotation Doctoral Student

Francesca Cornero: Master Student

  • I'm conducting Comparative Cognition research with African Grey parrots and Eurasian jays under a Herchel Smith Postgraduate Fellowship from Harvard University. I am interested in match to sample, visual working memory, social learning, and theory of mind, among other concepts. I was previously a research assistant at the Pepperberg Avian Cognition Lab at Harvard University, where I conducted research on disjunctive syllogism, visual working memory, Piagetian liquid "overconservation", referential communication, and more. 

Maria Loconsole: Visiting PhD Student

  • I am a PhD student from the University of Padua, working under the supervision of Prof. Lucia Regolin in the Comparative Cognition Lab. At present I am a visiting scientist in Nicky Clayton's Lab, conducting a new research project on eurasian jays. I am interested in how animals represent their surroundings and how these representations are created and stored in the brain.

Clive Wilkins: Artist in Residence

  • I am a fine-art painter and a writer, and a Member of the Magician's Circle (MMC). I have exhibited  at the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy and in private galleries in Cork Street, London – including a one-man show in 2007. Wilkins has produced portraits of Sir Howard Hodgkin and Sir Peter Blake among others and has been presented publicly to HRH Princess Royal.

  • Wilkins' writing and paintings have been in print on numerous occasions, most notably in his published work 'The Creatures in the Night', a story written and lavishly illustrated by Wilkins in 2008. 'The Moustachio Quartet', a series of four novels~ 'Caruso Maelstrom', 'Count Zapik', 'Xavier Mannikin' and 'Eissenstrom' explore mental time travel and question consciousness. As a performer and magician I am particularly interested in the nature of cognitive illusion and the psychology of perception. Together with Nicky Clayton, I am co-founder of The Captured Thought, and an Honourary Director of Studies and Advisor for China-UK Development Centre.



Former CCL Members:

Dr Riero Amodio

Dr Markus Boeckle

Dr Rachel Crosby

Dr. Anna Frohnwieser

Dr Sarah Jelbert

Dr Ed Legg

Elsa Loissel

Dr Ljerka Ostojic

Dr Steven Samuel

Dr Camille Troisi





Professor Ian Apperley, University of Birmingham
Professor Cristina Atance, University of Ottawa
Mr Mark Baldwin, Artistic Director, Rambert Dance Company

Dr. Lucy Cheke, University of Cambridge
Dr Nathan Emery, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Alison Gopnik, University of California at Berkeley
Professor Russell Gray, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena
Professor Paul Hatchett, Emerson College
Dr Robert Lurz, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Professor Andrew Meltzoff, University of Washington
Dr Alex Taylor, University of Aukland