Stuart Watson

About me

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Comparative Communication and Cognition Group lead by Prof. Simon Townsend at the University of Zurich. My research investigates comprehension of non-adjacent dependencies in artificial grammars in human adults, non-human primates and birds. This work aims to determine the extent to which the human ability to process grammar-like patterns may predate the advent of language, and thereby shed light on its evolutionary history.


I completed my PhD in 2017 at the University of St Andrews, where I was supervised by Professor Andrew Whiten. My thesis, titled "Factors shaping social learning in chimpanzees", explored the various contextual biases and individual differences that shape the diffusion of social information and culture in chimpanzees.


Prior to that, I completed an MRes at the University of York with Dr Katie Slocombe, where I studied vocal learning behaviour in chimpanzees.


Please see my personal website for further information.


Research interests

Animal communication

Vocal behaviour

The evolution of language

Cultural evolution and social learning

Behavioural flexibility