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, 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 Max Planck Institute (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, M. “What did we learn from theape language studies?Bonobos: Unique in Mind, Brain, and Behavior, 2018, pp. 95–104. Scopus, doi:10.1093/oso/9780198728511.003.0007. Full Text

Wolf, Wouter, and Michael Tomasello. “Human children, but not great apes, become socially closer by sharing an experience in common ground.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 199, July 2020, p. 104930. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104930. Full Text

Gopnik, Alison, et al. “Introduction to special issue: 'Life history and learning: how childhood, caregiving and old age shape cognition and culture in humans and other animals'.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, vol. 375, no. 1803, July 2020, p. 20190489. Epmc, doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0489. Full Text

Tomasello, Michael. “The adaptive origins of uniquely human sociality.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, vol. 375, no. 1803, July 2020, p. 20190493. Epmc, doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0493. Full Text

Bohn, Manuel, et al. “Learning Novel Skills From Iconic Gestures: A Developmental and Evolutionary Perspective.Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 7, July 2020, pp. 873–80. Epmc, doi:10.1177/0956797620921519. Full Text

Grueneisen, Sebastian, and Michael Tomasello. “The development of coordination via joint expectations for shared benefits.Developmental Psychology, vol. 56, no. 6, June 2020, pp. 1149–56. Epmc, doi:10.1037/dev0000936. Full Text

Schmelz, Martin, et al. “The psychological mechanisms underlying reciprocal prosociality in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).Journal of Comparative Psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983), vol. 134, no. 2, May 2020, pp. 149–57. Epmc, doi:10.1037/com0000200. Full Text

Köymen, Bahar, et al. “Young Children's Ability to Produce Valid and Relevant Counter-Arguments.Child Development, vol. 91, no. 3, May 2020, pp. 685–93. Epmc, doi:10.1111/cdev.13338. Full Text

Hepach, Robert, et al. “Chimpanzees help others with what they want; children help them with what they need.Developmental Science, vol. 23, no. 3, May 2020, p. e12922. Epmc, doi:10.1111/desc.12922. Full Text

Köymen, Bahar, et al. “Preschoolers refer to direct and indirect evidence in their collaborative reasoning.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 193, May 2020, p. 104806. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104806. Full Text

Tomasello, Michael. “The many faces of obligation.The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 43, Apr. 2020, p. e89. Epmc, doi:10.1017/s0140525x19002620. Full Text


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.