Connect with the Evolution, Variation, and Ontogeny of Learning Laboratory:


In the Evolution, Variation, and Ontogeny of Learning Laboratory, we study the ontogeny of cultural learning. Our team of cognitive developmental scientists studies the interplay of our universal mind and the variation of human culture.

The lab is directed by Dr. Legare, and is located in the psychology department at The University of Texas at Austin. The other members of the EVO Learn Lab are:

Program Manager

Oskar Burger, Ph.D., is a program manager in the EVO Learn Lab. Oskar completed his Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico in 2009 and has worked in several disciplinary settings, including anthropology, evolutionary ecology, and demography. This cross-disciplinary background is used to provide analytical and management support for several of the Lab’s endeavors. In particular, Oskar provides analytical and methodological support for Project RISE and EVO Learn’s NSF-funded project examining cultural variation in social learning and cultural transmission. Oskar is interested in evolutionary approaches to human behavior, data analysis, and areas of applied anthropology and psychology. 

Lab Manager

Karlos Ramos is a lab manager in the EVO Learn Lab. Karlos oversees the day-to-day operations of the lab and provides administrative, organizational, and research support to all of the projects of the EVO Learn Lab. Karlos obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has a strong background in research, including his time as a student researcher at UT studying metropolitan crime and reporting, and conducting EEG and consumer market research. His areas of interest include data analysis, demography, and juvenile drug use.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Emily Little, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the EVO Learn Lab. She is the Project Manager for Project RISE: harnessing Ritual to Improve Service-delivery and Empower health workers. The objective of this project is to improve maternal and child health in India and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (PI Legare). Dr. Little completed her Ph.D. at University of California, San Diego in experimental developmental psychology with a specialization in anthropogeny. She studies cultural variation in childrearing practices (in Vanuatu, Bolivia, Guatemala, and the U.S.), focusing on the role of infant-caregiver physical contact in early social-cognitive development and breastfeeding behavior. She is founder and director of nurturely, an organization that supports the health and development of infants and caregivers globally.

Emily Messer, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the EVO Learn Lab.. She is working on an NSF-funded project examining cultural variation in social learning and cultural transmission (PI Legare). Emily graduated from The University of Dundee in the U.K. with a BSc Hons in biology and then went on to do a Ph.D. at the University of St Andrews in the U.K. in psychology and neuroscience; her thesis investigated social learning and social behaviour in capuchin and squirrel monkeys. Since finishing her Ph.D. in 2014, she has done postdocs at The University of St Andrews and Heriot-Watt University in the U.K., working with capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees, and children. Emily is a primatologist and a keen science communicator with research interests in social behaviour, learning, culture, and prosociality.

Sinjini Mukherjee, Ph.D., is a research fellow at the Centre for Social and Behavioural Change at Ashoka University in India, and is currently working on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded Project RISE. Sinjini recently completed her Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University in Germany. She received a German Research Foundation (DFG) Grant for her doctoral project for the period 2009–2012. Her research is primarily concerned with the relationship between local moral cosmologies, medical technologies and practice, and perceptions of the human body. Prior to moving to Germany to pursue her doctoral studies, she was a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, where she received both her M.A. and M.Phil. degrees. Sinjini has presented her research at several international conferences and workshops in the U.S., Germany, and India.

Sarah Pope, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the EVO Learn Lab. She is working on an NSF-funded project examining cultural variation in social learning and cultural transmission (PI Legare). Sarah received her M.S. and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Georgia State University as well as her Ph.D. in psychology from Aix-Marseille University. For her dissertation research, Sarah explored differences in cognitive flexibility within the primate lineage (baboons, chimpanzees) and across human cultures (America, France, Namibia). Specifically, her research focused on how familiar solution strategies can block more efficient ones. Sarah is also interested in how formal education impacts problem-solving flexibility and other aspects of human cognition.

Bruce Rawlings, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the EVO Learn Lab. He is working on an NSF-funded project examining cultural variation in social learning and cultural transmission (PI Legare). Bruce graduated from the University of Plymouth with a B.Sc in psychology before receiving an M.Sc in cognitive neuroscience from the University of York. Bruce’s Ph.D. from Durham University examined individual differences in social learning and innovation in children and chimpanzees. Prior to Bruce’s Ph.D., he conducted research on the social transmission of behaviors in nonhuman primate communities in Brazil and Zambia.

Graduate Student

Karri Neldner is a current Ph.D. student visiting from the University of Queensland, Australia, on a Fulbright postgraduate scholarship. She examines the innovation capacities of young children and chimpanzees by investigating their ability to create new tools independently. She has examined the influences of cultural upbringing on innovation by taking her tasks to children in indigenous, rural, and metropolitan communities across Vanuatu, South Africa, and Australia. During her time in the EVO Learn Lab, she will be comparing the tool innovation abilities of chimpanzees and children, to gain insights into the evolutionary origins of this important ability. Karri graduated with a Bachelor of Psychological Science from the University of Queensland with Honours in 2011. She has previously worked with chimpanzees, orangutans, and vervet monkeys on an array of cognitive tasks. She has a keen passion for science communication and inquiry-based learning, behavioural ecology, and examining animal behavior and adaptation from an evolutionary perspective.


Research Assistants

  • Samiyah Al-Amin
  • Alex Barshop
  • Sabrina Chavez
  • Lydia Chen
  • Seoyoung Choi
  • Summer Crawford
  • Anoushka Dasgupta
  • Aliana Gamboa
  • Sushil Gangasani
  • Kyle Katigbak
  • Kathryn Klepac
  • Sonali Krish
  • Sebastien Lauzy
  • Juliette Licon
  • Emma Morris
  • Roshan Nair
  • Morgan Newhouse
  • Lori Woo
  • Sana Usman
  • Amir Zlaei

Former Ph.D. Students & Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Justin T.A. Busch, Ph.D. is a quantitative researcher. He received his Ph.D. from UT Austin in 2018.
    Personal website →
  • Jennifer Clegg, Ph.D., is a senior lecturer at Texas State University. She received her Ph.D. from UT Austin in 2016.
    Personal website →
  • Daniel Conroy-Beam, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at UC Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. from UT Austin in 2016.
    Personal website →
  • Sarah Davis, Ph.D., is a research scientist. She was a visiting graduate student at UT Austin from 2015–2017.
  • Patricia Herrmann, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist. She was a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin from 2011–2013.
  • Frances R. Morales, M.A., is a lecturer at Concordia University. She received her M.A. at UT Austin in 2015.
  • Andre L. Souza, Ph.D., is a quantitative researcher at Facebook. He received his Ph.D. from UT Austin in 2012.
  • Rachel Watson-Jones, Ph.D., is a usability senior engineer at Dell. She was a visiting graduate student and postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin from 2011–2015.
    Personal website →
  • Nicole J. Wen, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral research scientist. She received her Ph.D. from UT Austin in 2018.
    Personal website →
  • Aiyana Willard, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the Division of Psychology at Brunel University London. She was a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin from 2015–2017.
    Personal website →

Former Undergraduate Research Assistants

  • 2018-2019: Bunmi Akindona, Janet Akisanmi, Justin Allen, Felicia Calo, Hannah Campos, Michaela Caughy, Jensen Edwards, Stephanie Estrera, Claudia Hernandez, Keyun Li, Anh Nguyen, Yasmeen Nofal, Keonnie Parilla, Matthew Reyes, Danielle Salinas, Adriana Threet, Nawal Umar, Nat Watkins
  • 2017-2018: Sally Do, Shirin Khakoo, Sarah Kim, Hannah Nazir, Ashley Obregon, Ashley Pham, Evan Wotipka
  • 2016-2017: Alyssa Bohnert, Aurora Brinkman, Zac Buckingham, Aditi Chalise, Shihyin Chung, Nick Gatz, Taylor George, Nicole Griffin, Atira Hinton, Daniel Ikejimba, Vibha Iyengar, Bonnie Johnson, Andi Liang, Jacob Maras, Gaby Morgan, Yasmeen Nofal, Reethika Thakkalapally, Jennifer Velazquez, Aaron Wood
  • 2015-2016: Alexander Abbot, Andrew Arriaga, Mahera Badat, Carmen Cardenas, Nitza Chavez, Grace Cicardo, Emily Cruz, Maria de Leon, Emma Denning, Daniel Dosal-Terminel, Leah Duran, Nicole Garner, Taylor George, Tiffany Huynh, Daniel Ikejimba, Eunice Iyalho, Nicole Jacobs, Ana Jacome, Alicia Kiattinat, Sarah Kim, Emily Lang, Lindsey Leggett, Shirley Li, Joel Lucio, Wanja Muturi, Anisa Nabily, Patty Phewklieng, Graciela Rodriguez, Tara Thankachan, Bryn Terry, Shu Jie Ting, Emily Withrow
  • 2014-2015: Adrian Abellanoza, Bethelhem Belachew, Anuj Bhutani, Jayson Alex Carr, Emily Eck, Quinn Hirschi, Elena Keltner, Shama Momin, Valerie Moreno, Priyanka Patel, Bella Prines, McKenzie Ratcliffe, Annabel Reeves, Michelle Ross, Hyunji Seo, Swathi Sridhar, Kasia Szostak, Sarah Talaat, Allison Tsao, Holly Weir, Debbie Yeh, Rithika Yogeshwarun, Chloe Yu
  • 2013-2014: Niki Akhaveissy, Adam Alcott, Andrea Argueta, Joseph Barron, Casey Brown, Courtney Crosby, Cisse Drame, Stephanie Gonzalez, Irene Jea, Alexa Perlick, Elyssa Proby, Emily Shanks, Allison Tsao, Monica Vela, Viviana Wan
  • 2012-2013: Justin Busch, Nathan Davis, Adrienne Fowler, Eric Harvey, Cintia Hinojosa, Sarah Mohkamkar
  • 2011-2012: Brittani Cobb, Kathryn Christine Chevis, Katherine Cullum, Niki Demkowicz, Teresa Gaytan, Lauren Gragg, Lacey Hutchison, Paige Hartman, Michelle Jorgenson, Riley Little, Becky Nekolaichuk, Tiffany Roshanian, Lukas Thompson, Maya Zein
  • 2010-2011: Erica Beall, Victoria Chapman, Claudia Garate, Erin Griffin, Anna Johnson, Abby Lavine, Christin Lusk, Daniel Martinez, Jr., Victoria Nava, Jenna Segraves, Ariana Stern-Luna, Nicole Wen
  • 2009-2010: Molly Callahan, Stephani Clayton, Milla Impola, Katie Jean, Starr La Salde, Linzi Moss, Naomi Schwendemann, Becca Yasskin
  • 2008-2009: Sara Baird, Justin Cho , Kellie Connors, Sabrina Elddine, Sonali Gadkari, Kaitlin McLaughlin, Jane Park, Cam Plummer, Leigh Plummer, Brooke Woolley



Lab Pictures