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 Jacobs Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021

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

Tomasello, Michael. A Natural History of Human Morality. 2016.

Tomasello, M. A Natural History of Human Thinking. Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 1–192.

Tomasello, Michael, and Josep Call. “Thirty years of great ape gestures..” Animal Cognition, vol. 22, no. 4, July 2019, pp. 461–69. Epmc, doi:10.1007/s10071-018-1167-1. Full Text Open Access Copy

Hepach, Robert, et al. “The relation between young children's physiological arousal and their motivation to help others..” Neuropsychologia, vol. 126, Mar. 2019, pp. 113–19. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.10.010. Full Text Open Access Copy

Tomasello, M. “Great Apes and Human Development: A Personal History.” Child Development Perspectives, vol. 12, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 189–93. Scopus, doi:10.1111/cdep.12281. Full Text Open Access Copy

Kachel, Ulrike, et al. “Three-Year-Olds' Reactions to a Partner's Failure to Perform Her Role in a Joint Commitment..” Child Development, vol. 89, no. 5, Sept. 2018, pp. 1691–703. Epmc, doi:10.1111/cdev.12816. Full Text Open Access Copy

Kachel, Gregor, et al. “Two-year-olds use adults' but not peers' points..” Developmental Science, vol. 21, no. 5, Sept. 2018. Epmc, doi:10.1111/desc.12660. Full Text

Tomasello, Michael. “How children come to understand false beliefs: A shared intentionality account..” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 115, no. 34, Aug. 2018, pp. 8491–98. Epmc, doi:10.1073/pnas.1804761115. Full Text

Bohn, Manuel, et al. “The social-cognitive basis of infants' reference to absent entities..” Cognition, vol. 177, Aug. 2018, pp. 41–48. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2018.03.024. Full Text

House, Bailey R., and Michael Tomasello. “Modeling social norms increasingly influences costly sharing in middle childhood..” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 171, July 2018, pp. 84–98. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2017.12.014. Full Text

Domberg, Andreas, et al. “Children's reasoning with peers in cooperative and competitive contexts..” The British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol. 36, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 64–77. Epmc, doi:10.1111/bjdp.12213. Full Text Open Access Copy

Vaish, Amrisha, et al. “The specificity of reciprocity: Young children reciprocate more generously to those who intentionally benefit them..” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 167, Mar. 2018, pp. 336–53. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2017.11.005. Full Text Open Access Copy


Krupenye, Christopher, et al. “Great apes anticipate actions based on agents' (false) beliefs.” International Journal of Psychology, vol. 51, ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2016, pp. 255–255.

Wobber, Victoria, et al. “Species differences in the rate of cognitive ontogeny among humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 144, WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2011, pp. 313–14.