Prof Amanda Seed

Prof Amanda Seed


Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 2054


Research areas

I am interested in the evolution of flexible behaviour and abstract thought.  In particular I study the extent to which non-human primates and human children solve problems using object concepts and causal reasoning.  I am also interested in how other cognitive processes (such as inhibition, working memory and attention) affect individual differences in performance on problem-solving tasks.  The underlying question motivating my research is to uncover the evolutionary changes in representational and executive processes that marked the origins of uniquely human thinking.  To answer this I think we also need to find out what selective pressures caused those changes to occur.  To this end I am interested in convergent evolution of intelligence in other large-brained animals such as corvids and parrots, and comparing species to uncover common principles for the evolution of intelligence.

Current Research Projects 

Physical reasoning in primates and children 

Can primates use physical principles such as solidity or connectedness to solve problems, or are they limited to perceptual features such as spatial relationships between objects?  How does physical reasoning develop in ontogeny?  
Correlation is not causation: do primates know the difference? 

Children have been described as little scientists because of their ability to infer patterns of causation from observed events, and plan interventions to investigate and test causal relationships.  Do primates infer an underlying causal structure when they observe events (such as X caused Y which caused Z or Y was the common cause of X and Z) or are they limited to learning patterns of association without encoding causal directionality? Can they use action to explore the physical properties of objects and explain the cause of events? How do their abilities compare with those of children?

PhD supervision

  • Kaustabh Baruah
  • Andreea Miscov
  • Rasmus Overmark
  • Janie Fink

Selected publications

  • Open access

    Abstract knowledge in the broken-string problem: evidence from nonhuman primates and pre-schoolers

    Mayer, C. P., Call, J., Albiach-Serrano, A., Visalberghi, E., Sabbatini, G. & Seed, A. M., 1 Oct 2014, In: PLoS One. 9, 10, 7 p., e108597.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Space or physics? Children use physical reasoning to solve the trap problem from 2.5 years of age

    Seed, A. M. & Call, J., Jul 2014, In: Developmental Psychology. 50, 7, p. 1951-1962 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Chimpanzee 'folk physics': bringing failures into focus

    Seed, A. M., Seddon, E., Greene, B. & Call, J., 5 Oct 2012, In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 367, 1603, p. 2743-2752 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    The evolution of self-control

    MacLean, E. L., Hare, B., Nunn, C. L., Addessi, E., Amici, F., Anderson, R. C., Aureli, F., Baker, J. M., Bania, A. E., Barnard, A. M., Boogert, N. J., Brannon, E. M., Bray, E. E., Bray, J., Brent, L. J. N., Burkart, J. M., Call, J., Cantlon, J. F., Cheke, L. G., Clayton, N. S., & 38 others Delgado, M. M., DiVincenti, L. J., Fujita, K., Herrmann, E., Hiramatsu, C., Jacobs, L. F., Jordan, K. E., Laude, J. R., Leimgruber, K. L., Messer, E. J. E., Moura, A. C. D. A., Ostojić, L., Picard, A., Platt, M. L., Plotnik, J. M., Range, F., Reader, S. M., Reddy, R. B., Sandel, A. A., Santos, L. R., Schumann, K., Seed, A. M., Sewall, K. B., Shaw, R. C., Slocombe, K. E., Su, Y., Takimoto, A., Tan, J., Tao, R., van Schaik, C. P., Virányi, Z., Visalberghi, E., Wade, J. C., Watanabe, A., Widness, J., Young, J. K., Zentall, T. R. & Zhao, Y., 20 May 2014, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111, 20, p. E2140- E2148

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    Animal tool-use

    Seed, A. & Byrne, R., 7 Dec 2010, In: Current Biology. 20, 23, p. R1032-R1039

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Chimpanzees Solve the Trap Problem When the Confound of Tool-Use is Removed

    Seed, A. M., Call, J., Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S., Jan 2009, In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. 35, 1, p. 23-34 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Causal knowledge for events and objects in animals

    Seed, A. M. & Call, J., 2009, Rational Animals, Irrational Humans. Watanabe, S., Blaisdell, A. P., Huber, L. & Young, A. (eds.). Keio University Press, p. 173-187

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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