Manon Schweinfurth

The causal link between evolution and behaviour is made through psychological mechanisms - Leda Cosmides & John Tooby (1978)

about me

I founded the Cooperation Lab when I started my lecturer position at the University of St Andrews. I have always been fascinated by how animals organise their social life. Most social interactions are characterised by peaceful cooperation, for instance, by helping others. However, such behaviours pose a substantial challenge to the theory of natural selection because selection should favour those that outcompete and not those that help others. In addition, we know little about the psychological prerequisites of cooperation. This is why I study the evolutionary and psychological origins of cooperative decisions. Most of my studies are based on predictions derived from game theoretical models that I test mainly experimentally both in the lab and field. Besides, I have always been interested in welfare and conservation issues and I am passionate about science communication.

scientific career

04/19 to date




10/17 – 03/19




05/17 – 08/17




03/17 – 09/17




10/13 – 03/17




09/16 – 10/16




09/12 – 06/13




03/12 – 04/12




09/11 – 10/11




04/11 – 06/11




04/08 – 07/13

Lecturer & PI (University of St Andrews, United Kingdom)

School of Psychology & Neuroscience

Centre for Social Learning & Cognitive Evolution


SNSF research fellow (University of St Andrews, United Kingdom)

Collaborator: Prof. Josep Call

"Social factors mediating reciprocal cooperation in chimpanzees"


Researcher (Chimfunshi, Zambia)

Collaborator: Prof. Josep Call

"Cooperative problem solving in chimpanzees"


Postdoctoral researcher (University of Bern, Switzerland)

Collaborator: Prof. Michael Taborsky

"The social life of rats"


PhD candidate (University of Bern, Switzerland)

Supervisor: Prof. Michael Taborsky

“Whom to help, how and why? Reciprocal trading among Norway rats”


Researcher (Centre de Recherche de Primatologie Simenti, Senegal)

Collaborator: Prof. Julia Fischer

“The multilevel society of Guinea baboons”


Diploma candidate (University of Bern, Switzerland)

Supervisor: Prof. Michael Taborsky

“Proximate mechanisms of reciprocal cooperation in Norway rats”


Student apprentice (Konrad Lorenz Research Station, Austria)

Supervisor: Prof. Thomas Bugnyar

“Behavioural differences in social interactions of wild ravens”


Student apprentice (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany)

Supervisor: Prof. Susanne Foitzik

“Moving in Temnothorax nylanderi


Field assistant (Konrad Lorenz Research Station, Austria)

Supervisor: Prof. Kurt Kotrschal

“Social factors and parasite burden in hand-raised greylag goslings”


Studies in Biology (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany)

Majors: Behavioural Ecology, Zoology, Botany, Psychology

research output





23 scientific articles and 4 book chapters

As first author: 19

Presentations: 4 plenary, 22 departmental, 45 conference talks

Other: 3 guest lectures, 1 symposium, 10 conference posters

As presenter: 61


01/24 to date

10/22 to 03/24

01/21 to 12/23

01/20 to date

06/18 – 07/21







02/21, 02/22
















03/15 to date



Editor: Animal Behaviour

Guest editor: Ethology

Consulting editor: Animal Behaviour

Consulting editor: Journal of Comparative Psychology

Associated editor: Scientific Reports

Grant and journal referee: see Web of Science


"33rd Annual Meeting of the SPRG"

Annual Meeting of the Scottish Primate Research Group (Edzell, UK)

Organiser with Emma McEwen


"Virtual conference of the Ethological Society"

Annual Meeting of the Ethological Society (Zoom, online)

Organiser with the society council


"Economics meets Psychology"

Inter-school Workshop at the University of St Andrews (St Andrews, UK)

Organiser with Dr Toman Barsbai


“The interplay of cooperation and communication”

Symposium at ECBB2016 (Vienna, Austria)

Organiser with Dr Claudia Wascher


“The theory of cooperation”

ProDoc workshop (Bratsch, Switzerland)

Organiser with Dr Claudia Kasper


Council member: Ethological Society

Since 2019: Communication officer

From 2023: Manager

media (selection)














Austrian TV, short documentary on geese, ORF2 (AT)

Daily Planet: features scientific news in TV, Discovery Channel (CA)

Einstein: popular science TV show, SRF (CH)

Faszination Wissen: TV documentary on rats, BR/ ARD (DE)

Planet Wissen: popular science TV show, BR/ SWR/ WDR/ ARD (DE)

Xenius: TV documentary on rats, ARTE/ ARD (DE, FR)

Nano: German short TV report on recent scientific results, 3sat (DE)

BBC World Service Radio (US), BR5 (D), Energy Bern/Basel/Zürich (CH), Kingdom FM (UK), Antena3 (ES), SRF2 (CH), SRF4 (CH)

BBC Wildlife Magazine (UK), Cosmos Magazine (AU), Daily (UK), die Welt (D), Forbes (US), Kurier (AT), 20 Minuten (CH), the Guardian (UK), Süddeutsche Zeitung (D), The Sun (UK)

My work has been featured online over hundred times on various platforms in more than 30 countries.