Thomas Bugnyar is full Professor of Cognitive Ethology and the head of Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna. He conducted his PhD in Vienna in 2001 studying the social foraging in ravens. Thomas Bugnyar worked as an Erwin Schrödinger fellow at the University of Vermont on project “Tactical deception in ravens”. In 2006, he was awarded a Niko Tinbergen Award for outstanding publications. He spent a year as lecturer at the School of Psychology of University of St Andrews. In 2008, he settled in Austria working on his research “Raven politics: understanding and use of social relations” with the help of the prestigious START prize. Thomas Bugnyar is interested in evolution of mind and his research focuses on social behaviour and the evolution of complex cognitive abilities. He pursues an integrative approach, combining concepts and methods of behavioural biology and comparative psychology. He is most renowned for his long-term program on ravens studied under captive and field conditions but currently expands his work to other animals such as primates and parrots. The broad questions are (i) which abilities do individuals require to solve problems in daily life with others, (ii) what types of mental representation underlie these abilities and (iii) how are skills acquired and transmitted. The goal of his research is to investigate social complexity as a driving force for mental evolution, with emphasis on the possibility of a convergent evolution of cognitive traits in phylogenetically distant but socio-ecologically similar species.
Having begun with a general interest in animal social behaviour, Kate Arnold studied aspects of post-conflict behaviour in monkeys and then in wild chimpanzees at Budongo Forest in Uganda for her PhD. She is now primarily interested in animal cognition, and communication in particular, and has carried out a series of observational and experimental studies focused on characterising the cognitive mechanisms underlying alarm calling in wild forest monkeys in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Much of this work has informed debates on the evolution of language and has resulted in collaborations with linguists and philosophers.