Katie Slocombe
Senior Lecturer



  • University of Nottingham
  • University of St Andrews

Graduated from University of Nottingham before completing a PhD at the University of St Andrews. Stayed to do two years post-doctoral work with the Evolutionary Psychology group in St Andrews before joining York. Research interests centre around using the comparative approach to understand how elements of human language evolved. Her previous and current work focusses on chimpanzee vocal communication and in particular, the extent to which our closest living relatives can use calls to refer to objects and events in the external environment and the psychological mechanisms underlying call production. This behavioural work is conducted with both wild and captive populations of chimpanzees.



Evolutionary and comparative psychology: evolution of language, chimpanzee communication, primate behaviour and cognition.

Current projects

Chimpanzee vocal communication: I am working with my post doctoral researcher Dr Anne Schel on this BBSRC funded project which aims to investigate the mechanisms and motivations underlying call production in chimpanzees. We are working with wild chimpanzees from the Sonso community in Budongo Forest, Uganda and captive chimpanzees at Edinburgh Zoo. We are combining observational and experimental behavioural studies in this project.

Social cognition in Chimpanzees and Ugandan and British human Infants: My PhD student Tanja Kaller is examining joint attention and parenting styles in wild chimpanzee and Ugandan and British mother-infant dyads. Tanja collects both observational and experimental data from these three groups using similar protocols to allow us to make cross species and cross cultural comparisons

Chimpanzee vocal and social behaviour: My PhD student Pawel Fedurek is collecting observational data from wild chimpanzees in Kibale Forest, Uganda in order to investigate the role vocalisations may play in social bonding between males.

Human-primate interactions: My PhD student, Sarah Papworth, co-supervisored with E.J. Milner Gulland at Imperial, is investigating small scale interactions between humans and monkeys in Yasuní National Park , Amazonian Ecuador.

Communication and emotion perception in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An additional strand of research I am currently pursuing focuses auditory emotion perception and linguistic alignment in individuals with and without ASD.

Research group(s)

Dr Anne Schel (Post-doctoral researcher)

Tanja Kaller (PhD Student)

Pawel Fedurek (PhD Student)

Sarah Papworth (PhD Student)


£293,943 BBSRC New Investigator Project Grant (2009-2012) entitled ‘To call or not to call: mechanisms underlying call production in chimpanzees’.


  • Dr Klaus Zuberbuhler, University of St Andrews
  • Simon Townsend, Zurich University, Switzerland
  • Josep Call, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany 
  • Daniel Haun, Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen, Holland
  • Prof  E.J. Milner-Gulland, I mperial College, UK
  • Dr Katja Liebal, Free University, Berlin, Germany
  • Dr Bridget Waller, University of Portsmouth, UK

Available PhD research projects

I would welcome applications from people interested in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology, more specifically communication and social cognition in primates. I have a good network of contacts to arrange access to a variety of primate species for studying, including wild and captive chimpanzees. For those wishing to embark on a fieldwork PhD study, experience of travel and work in third world countries is a real advantage.


Selected publications

  • Fedurek, P. & Slocombe, K. E. (in press) Primate vocal communication: a useful tool for understanding human speech and language evolution? Human Biology
  • Slocombe, K. E., Kaller, T., Turman, L., Townsend, S.W., Papworth, S. & Zuberbühler, K. (2010) Production of food-associated calls in wild male chimpanzees is dependent on the composition of the audience, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, DOI: 10.1007/s00265-010-1006-0
  • Slocombe. K. E ., Kaller, T., Call, J. & Zuberbühler, K. (2010) Chimpanzees extract social information from agonistic screams, PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011473

  • Slocombe, K. E ., Townsend, S.W. & Zuberbühler, K. (2009). Wild chimpanzees distinguish between different scream types: evidence from a playback study, Animal Cognition, 12 (3), 441-449
  • Slocombe, K. E. and Zuberbühler, K. (2007). Chimpanzees modify recruitment screams as a function of audience composition. PNAS.104 (43), 17228-17233

  • Slocombe, K. E. and Zuberbühler, K. (2006) Food-associated calls in chimpanzees: Responses to food types or food preferences? Animal Behaviour, 72, 989-999

  • Slocombe, K. E. and Zuberbühler, K. (2005) Functionally referential communication in a chimpanzee. Current Biology, 15 (19), 1779-1784.
  • Slocombe, K. E. and Zuberbühler, K. (2005) Agonistic screams in wild chimpanzees vary as a function of social role, Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119(1), 67-77
  • Townsend, S. W., Slocombe, K. E., Emery-Thompson, M. & Zuberbühler, K. (2007) Female-led infanticide in wild chimpanzees. Current Biology, 17 (10), 355-356



  • Leader of Research Methods Strand
  • Teach Y1 of Research Methods Strand
  • Teach Comparative Cognition (Y2)

Contact details

Katie Slocombe
Department of Psychology
Room PS/B201

Tel: 01904 322905