Michael Tomasello

Michael Tomasello

Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology

External address: 
247 Soc Psych Bldg, Box 90086, Durham, NC 27708
(919) 660-8752


Major research interests in processes of social cognition, social learning, cooperation, and communication from developmental, comparative, and cultural perspectives. Current theoretical focus on processes of shared intentionality. Empirical research mainly with human children from 1 to 4 years of age and great apes.

Degrees & Credentials

  • Ph.D., University of Georgia at Athens 1980

  • B.A., Duke University 1972

Selected Grants

Cross-Cultural Patterns in the Ontogeny of Cooperation awarded by Max Planck Institute (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021

The Ontogeny of Cooperation awarded by Max Planck Institute (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2017

Tomasello, M. A Natural History of Human Morality. January 4, 2016.

Tomasello, M. A Natural History of Human Thinking. Harvard University Press, February 2014. (Edited Book)

Tomasello, M. "Great Apes and Human Development: A Personal History." Child Development Perspectives 12.3 (September 2018): 189-193. Full Text Open Access Copy

Kachel, G, Moore, R, and Tomasello, M. "Two-year-olds use adults' but not peers' points." Developmental Science 21.5 (September 2018): e12660-null. Full Text

Kachel, U, Svetlova, M, and Tomasello, M. "Three-Year-Olds' Reactions to a Partner's Failure to Perform Her Role in a Joint Commitment." Child Development 89.5 (September 2018): 1691-1703. Full Text Open Access Copy

Tomasello, M. "How children come to understand false beliefs: A shared intentionality account." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115.34 (August 13, 2018): 8491-8498. (Review) Full Text

Bohn, M, Zimmermann, L, Call, J, and Tomasello, M. "The social-cognitive basis of infants' reference to absent entities." Cognition 177 (August 2018): 41-48. Full Text

House, BR, and Tomasello, M. "Modeling social norms increasingly influences costly sharing in middle childhood." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 171 (July 2018): 84-98. Full Text

Domberg, A, Köymen, B, and Tomasello, M. "Children's reasoning with peers in cooperative and competitive contexts." The British journal of developmental psychology 36.1 (March 2018): 64-77. Full Text Open Access Copy

Vaish, A, Hepach, R, and Tomasello, M. "The specificity of reciprocity: Young children reciprocate more generously to those who intentionally benefit them." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 167 (March 2018): 336-353. Full Text Open Access Copy

Tomasello, M, and Call, J. "Thirty years of great ape gestures." Animal cognition (February 21, 2018). Full Text Open Access Copy

Grocke, P, Rossano, F, and Tomasello, M. "Young children are more willing to accept group decisions in which they have had a voice." Journal of experimental child psychology 166 (February 2018): 67-78. Full Text Open Access Copy


Krupenye, C, Kano, F, Hirata, S, Call, J, and Tomasello, M. "Great apes anticipate actions based on agents' (false) beliefs." July 2016.

Wobber, V, Herrmann, E, Hare, B, Wrangham, R, and Tomasello, M. "Species differences in the rate of cognitive ontogeny among humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos." 2011.