Home / Dr. Claudio Tennie

 
Dr. Claudio Tennie permanently based at the University of Tübingen (Germany) where he works as a research group leader ("Tools and Culture among Early Hominins") in the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology. In addition, he is an adjunct scientist at the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. Currently his main funding is via the ERC Starting Grant "STONECULT". His main research explores what makes human cognition unique - as well as why (and also, when this happened during our evolution and also during our development). In particular he studies the factors and the prehistorical beginnings that enabled human forms of culture: i.e. cumulative culture leading to culture-dependent traits. Cumulative culture is culture that evolves over time by way of treating earlier cultural items as stepping stones for later ones. This cultural evolutionary process requires learning mechanisms that are able to produce copies (e.g. imitation). He approaches this topic by studying non-human animals (mainly great apes), human adults and human children (also cross-culturally) with a diverse set of methodological approaches, combining insights from developmental psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive archaeology, behavioural ecology and biological anthropology. Through broadening the scope of species examined, extending his findings into our evolutionary past and by developing research paradigms that can be applied non-linguistically, he aims to probe the origins of copying and cumulative culture in human ontogeny and phylogeny, as well as the distribution of cumulative culture across the animal kingdom.
Professional biography
2017 - currentPermanent research group Leader: "Tools and Culture among Early Hominins", Department for Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Germany
2013 - currentAdjunct Scientist, Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, USA
2012 - 2017Research-focused Lecturer (Birmingham Fellow), University of Birmingham, UKSchool of Psychology.Also became Associate of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) during that time.
2009 - 2012Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany Postdoctoral research fellow
2006 - 2012Carried out studies with chimpanzees in Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Uganda (4 trips, totalling 8 months) – plus field project in western Uganda in 2006
2004 - 2009Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany Ph.D.-student and zoo-labcoordinator at the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Centre Ph.D. in Biology - Göttingen University, Germany - 20.11.2009, titled:"Human culture versus great ape traditions: Mechanisms of observational learning in human children and great apes"Supervised by Prof. Michael Tomasello and Dr. Josep Call; examined by Prof. Julia Fischer and Prof. Michael Waldmann.
Professional services
2019Co-organiser of ETHO2020 confence at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
2017 - ongoingBudgeting and research supervision for ERC Starting Grant STONECULT
Co-organiser for the colloquium for Early Prehistory at the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
2016Internal examiner on PhD viva (Biosciences; University of Birmingham)
Co-organiser of “Cumulative Culture” conference in June 2016, University of Birmingham.
Co-organiser of workshop on “Zone of Latent Solutions” concept with Michael Haslam's ERC Research Group (Oxford), held at the University of Birmingham.
Invited participant for EPRSC workshop on the development of a new research scheme - "human-like computing", held in Bristol, UK.
2015 - 2016Personal tutor for 24 students (year 1-3)
2014 - 2015Personal tutor for 16 students (year 1-2)
2014 - 2017Budgeting and research supervision for ESRC Future Research Leader Grant ES/K008625/1
2009 - 2011Organiser of speakers for regular fortnightly labmeetings
2005 - 2007Established and managed research collaboration at the Tiergarten Nürnberg on dolphin cognition
2005 - 2006Established and managed research collaboration at the Wilhelma (Stuttgart zoo) on gorilla cognition
2004 - 2009Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Half-time zoo-labcoordinator at the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Centre
Responsibilities included, but were not restricted to: supervision, coordination and organization of studies, research assistants, students and interns. General organisation and management of the WKPRC & administrative liaison between zoo and MPI management (weekly meetings).
2004 - 2008Supervised and managed enrichment activities for the great apes housed at the WKPRC.
2003 - 2005Organised speakers for fortnightly labmeetings
2003 - 2004Organised the Animal Cognition Reading Group ("ACRG")
Grant and Awards
2019PI for DAAD PPP Australia grant awared for PhD student Li Li (€6316)
2017 - 2022PI for ERC Starting Grant - “STONECULT” project (€1,500,000)
2017 - 2019PI for SNSF mobility fellowship with Fellow Dr. Sofia Forss (€65,000)
2016 - 2019ESRC PhD studentship for Damien Neadle; with Claudio Tennie as lead supervisor (£60,356)
2015 - 2016CoI for NERC Innovation Project Grant NE/M021300/1 "An Enclosure Design Tool to enable zoos to create integrated, wild-type enclosures for great apes" (£122,000
2015 - 2017PI for Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship "GESTRANSCULT" with fellow Dr. Zanna Clay (£221,000)
2013 - 2016PI for ESRC Future Research Leader Grant ES/K008625/1 "Is cumulative culture restricted to modern humans?" (£241,000)
College of Life and Environmental Sciences (University of Birmingham) PhD studentship awarded to Eva Reindl; with Claudio Tennie as lead supervisor (£54,000). In 2016 Eva Reindl was awarded the Michael K. O'Rourke Award for the best PhD publication for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.
2013Collaboration visit to Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago - covered by University of Birmingham Transatlantic Collaboration Fund (£900)
2012 - 2017University of Birmingham Research Fellowship (open competition with 2% success rate; £301,000)
2012 - 2014AAAS/Science Program for Excellence in Science recipient
2010Klaus Tschira Award for achievements in public understanding of science (Biology)
2009 - 2011Post-Doc grant from Max Planck Society
Published or accepted journal articles
2020Schmidt, P., Rageot, M., Blessing, M., & Tennie, C. (2020). The Zandmotor data do not resolve the question whether Middle Paleolithic birch tar making was complex or not. PNAS. See also this twitter thread.
Dogandžić, T., Abdolazadeh, A., Leader, G., Li, L., McPherron, S. P., Tennie, C., & Dibble, H. L. (2020). The results of lithic experiments performed on glass cores are applicable to other raw materials. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 12 (2), 44.
2019Tennie, C. (2019). Could non-human great apes also have cultural evolutionary psychology? Behavioral and Brain Sciences. AKA "Could there ever be Planet of the Apes IRL?". A comment on: Heyes 2019 "Précis of cognitive gadgets: The cultural evolution of thinking" in BBS. Contact me if you'd like a pdf.
Tennie, C., Völter, C. J., Vonau, V., Hanus, D., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2019). Chimpanzees use observed temporal directionality to learn novel causal relations. Primates, 60(6), 517-524.
Schmidt, P., Blessing, M., Rageot, M., Iovita, R., Pfleging, J., Nickel, K. G.; Righetti, L. & Tennie, C. (2019). Birch tar extraction does not prove Neanderthal behavioral complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Online first.
Forss, S. I. F., Motes‐Rodrigo, A., Hrubesch, C., & Tennie, C. (2019). Differences in novel food response between Pongo and Pan. American Journal of Primatology, 81(1), e22945. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Forss, S. I. F., Motes-Rodrigo, A., & Tennie, C. (2019). Animal Behavior: Ape Curiosity on Camera. Current Biology, 29(7), R255-R257.
Tennie, C. (2019). The zone of latent solution (ZLS) account remains the most parsimonious explanation for early stone tools. Current Anthropology. Comment on: Stout et al. 2019 "Archaeology and the origins of human cumulative culture" in Current Anthropology. Contact me if you'd like a pdf.
Bandini, E., & Tennie, C. (2019). Individual acquisition of “stick pounding” behavior by naïve chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology. e22987. Contact me if you'd like a pdf.
Motes-Rodrigo, A., Majlesi, P., Pickering, T. R., Laska, M., Axelsen, H., Minchin, T. C., Tennie, C., & Hernandez-Aguilar, R. A. (2019). Chimpanzee extractive foraging with excavating tools: Experimental modeling of the origins of human technology. PloS ONE. 14(5), e0215644. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
van Schaik, C., Pradhan, G., & Tennie, C. (2019). Teaching and curiosity: sequential drivers of cumulative cultural evolution in the hominin lineage. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 73:2
2018Bandini, E., & Tennie, C. (2018). Naive, captive long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis fascicularis) fail to individually and socially learn pound-hammering, a tool-use behaviour. Royal Society Open Science, 5(5), 171826.
Acerbi, A., van Leeuwen, E. J., Haun, D. B., & Tennie, C. (2018). Reply to ‘sigmoidal acquisition curves are good indicators of conformist transmission’. Scientific Reports. 8, 14016. Note also our 2019 correction of this article.
Reindl, E., Tennie, C. (2018). Young children fail to generate an additive ratchet effect in an open-ended construction task. PLoS ONE 13(6). e0197828.
Clay, Z., Over, H. & Tennie, C. (2018). What drives young children to over-imitate? Investigating the effects of age, context, action type and transitivity. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 166, 520-534.
Jensen, K., Tennie, C., & Call, J. (2018). Correspondence: Reply to ‘Chimpanzee helping is real, not a byproduct’. Nature Communications. 9, 616.
2017Neadle, D., Allritz, M., & Tennie, C. (2017). Food cleaning in gorillas: Social learning is a possibility but not a necessity. PLoS ONE. 12: e0188866.
Bandini, E., & Tennie, C. (2017). Spontaneous reoccurrence of “scooping”, a wild tool-use behaviour, in naïve chimpanzees. PeerJ. 5, e3814.
Clay, Z. & Tennie, C. (2017). Is over-imitation a uniquely human phenomenon? Insights from human children as compared to bonobos. Child Development. 89, 1535-1544.
Tennie, C., Premo, L.S., Braun, D.R. & McPherron, S. P. (2017). Resetting the null hypothesis: early stone tools and cultural transmission. 58, 664-672. Forum Article (and response (note: especially our response is recommended reading)) in: Current Anthropology
Reindl, E. Apperly, I.A., Beck, S.R., & Tennie, C. (2017). Young children copy cumulative technological design in the absence of action information. Scientific Reports. 7, 1788.
2016Tennie, C., Jensen, K. & Call, J. (2016). The nature of prosociality in chimpanzees. Nature Communications. 7, 13915. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
van Leeuwen, E.J.C., Acerbi, A., Kendal, R.L., Tennie, C. & Haun, D.B.M. (2016). A re-appreciation of “conformity”. Animal Behaviour. 122, e5-e10.
Acerbi, A., van Leeuwen, E., Haun, D. & Tennie, C. (2016). Conformity cannot be identified based on population-level signatures. Scientific Reports. 6, 36068.
Acerbi, A., Tennie, C. & Mesoudi, A. (2016). Social learning solves the problem of narrow-peaked search landscapes: experimental evidence in humans. Royal Society Open Science. 3, 160215. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Acerbi, A., & Tennie, C. (2016). The role of redundant information in cultural transmission and cultural stabilization. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 130, 62-70. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Reindl, E., Beck, S.R., Apperly, I.A. & Tennie, C. (2016). Young children spontaneously invent wild great apes’ tool-use behaviors. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 283, 1825. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
2015van Leeuwen, E.J.C.; Kendal, R.L.; Tennie, C. & Haun, D.B.M. (2015). Conformity and its look-a-likes. Animal Behaviour. 110, e1-e4. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Haidle, M.N.; Bolus, M.; Collard, M.; Conard, N.J.; Garofoli, D.; Lombard, M.; Nowell, A.; Tennie, C. & Whiten, A. (2015). The nature of culture: an eight-grade model for the evolution and expansion of cultural capacities in hominins and other animals. Journal of Anthropological Sciences. 93, 43-70. Find your personal copy here.
Hopper, L.M.; Tennie, C.; Ross, S.R.; & Lonsdorf, E.V. (2015). Chimpanzees create and modify probe tools functionally: a study with zoo-housed chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology. 77, 162–170. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Moore, R. & Tennie, C. (2015). Cognitive mechanisms matter - but they do not explain the absence of teaching in chimpanzees. Behavioural and Brain Sciences. 38, 32-33. Find your personal copy here.
2014Tennie, C.; O’Malley, R.C. & Gilby, I.C. (2014). Why do chimpanzees hunt? Considering the benefits and costs of acquiring and consuming vertebrate versus invertebrate prey. Journal of Human Evolution. 71, 38-45. Find a personal download here.
Vogelsang, M.; Jensen, K.; Kirschner, S.; Tennie, C. & Tomasello, M. (2014). Preschoolers are sensitive to free riding in a public goods game. Frontiers in Psychology. 5, 729. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Tennie, C.; Walter, V.; Gampe, A.; Carpenter, M. & Tomasello, M. (2014). Limitations to the cultural ratchet effect in young children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 126, 152-160.
2013Menzel, C.; Fowler, A.; Tennie, C. & Call, J. (2013). Leaf surface roughness elicits leaf swallowing behavior in captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (P. paniscus), but not in gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) or orangutans (Pongo abelii). International Journal of Primatology. 34, 533-553. Find your personal copy here.
Allritz, M.; Tennie, C. & Call, J. (2013). Food washing and placer mining in captive great apes. Primates. 54, 361-370.
2012Tomasello, M.; Melis, A.; Tennie, C.; Wyman, E. & Herrmann, E. (2012). Two key steps in the evolution of human cooperation: the interdependence hypothesis. Current Anthropology. 53, 673-692. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Tennie, C.; Call, J.; Tomasello, M. (2012). Untrained chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) fail to imitate novel actions. PLoS ONE.
Pradhan, G. R.; Tennie, C. & van Schaik, C. (2012). Social organization and the evolution of cumulative technology in apes and hominins. Journal of Human Evolution. 63, 180-190. Find your personal copy here.
Tennie, C. & Over, H. (2012). Cultural intelligence is key to explaining human tool use. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 35, 242-243. Find your personal copy here.
Acerbi, A., Jacquet, P. O., Tennie, C. (2012). Behavioral constraints and the evolution of faithful social learning. . 58, 307-318. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Tennie, C. (2012). Punishing for your own good: the case of reputation based cooperation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 35, 40-41. Find your personal copy here.
2011Hanus, D.; Mendes, N.; Tennie, C. & Call., J. (2011). Comparing the performances of apes (Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, Pongo pygmaeus) and human children (Homo sapiens) in the floating peanut task. PLoS ONE. 6, e19555. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
Acerbi, A.; Tennie, C. & Nunn, C. (2011). Modeling imitation and emulation in constrained search spaces. Learning & Behavior. 39, 104-114. Find your personal copy here.
Kaminski, J; Nitzschner, M.; Wobber, V.; Tennie, C.; Bräuer, J.; Call, J. & Tomasello M. (2011). Do dogs distinguish rational from irrational acts? Animal Behaviour. 81, 195-203. Find your personal copy here.
2010Tennie, C.; Frith, U. & Frith, C. (2010). Reputation management in the age of the world-wide web. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 14, 482-488. Find your personal copy here.
Tennie, C.; Greve, K.; Gretscher, H. & Call, J. (2010). Two-year-old children copy more reliably and more often than nonhuman great apes in multiple observational learning tasks. Primates. 51, 337-351. Find your personal copy here.
Tennie, C.; Call, J. & Tomasello, M. (2010). Evidence for emulation in chimpanzees in social settings using the floating peanut task. . 5, e10544. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website. Note that the (many) typos in the text were introduced by the journal's editing - not by me.
Yoon, J.* & Tennie, C.* (2010). Contagious yawning: a reflection of empathy, mimicry, or contagion? Animal Behaviour. 79, e1-e3. Find your personal copy here. * Equal contribution
2009Call, J. & Tennie, C. (2009). Animal culture: chimpanzee table manners? Current Biology. 19, R981-983. Find your personal copy here.
Tennie, C.; Call, J. & Tomasello, M. (2009). Ratcheting up the ratchet: on the evolution of cumulative culture. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B Biological Sciences. 364, 2405-2415. Find your personal copy here.
Tennie, C.; Tempelmann, S.; Glabsch, E.; Bräuer, J.; Kaminski, J. & Call, J. (2009). Dogs (Canis familiaris) fail to copy intransitive actions in third party contextual imitation tasks. Animal Behaviour. 77, 1491-1499. Find your personal copy here.
Tennie, C.; Gilby, I. & Mundry, R. (2009). The meat-scrap hypothesis: small quantities of meat may promote cooperative hunting in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 63, 421-431. This paper is "open access" - so you can download it cost-free from the journal's website.
2008Tennie, C.; Hedwig, D.; Call J. & Tomasello, M. (2008). An experimental study of nettle feeding in captive gorillas. American Journal of Primatology. 70, 584-93. Find your personal copy here.
2006Tennie, C.; Call, J. & Tomasello, M. (2006). Push or pull: emulation versus imitation in great apes and human children. Ethology, 112, 1159-1169. Find your personal copy here.
 

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