Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow

Social Cognitive Development Lab, Yale University & Department of Developmental Psychology, Göttingen University


Starting July 2019, I will be an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psycholgy at the University of California – Berkeley.

If you are interested in applying to work in my lab as a graduate student, please contact me!

Research Interests

Over evolutionary time, humans have come to inhabit a unique point on the two fundamental axes of animal sociality, competition and cooperation. Comparative research with chimpanzees, one of our closest living relatives, has shown that human prosociality often defies rational self-interest and that in fact, human cooperation extends far beyond the forms of collaboration we see in other species. This distinctive human feature has resulted not only in cooperative behavior but also in unique forms of cognition adapted for excelling in interactive contexts and navigating a complex social world. This trait is so integral to human interaction, that individuals ask the central questions of a decision-making agent – What should I do? What should I believe? – in fundamentally cooperative ways. At the same time, and maybe counterintuitively, our cooperative nature also gives rise to novel and especially powerful forms of competition among human individuals, coalitions, and whole groups.

Based on this framework, I ask three interrelated research questions: How are human skills and motivations for cooperation similar to and different from those of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees? How do human children, over the course of ontogeny, reliably develop species-specific cooperative skills and motivations and how does this process differ across populations? How do novel forms of digital interaction affect and extend human cooperation?

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)


Engelmann, J.M., Haux, L.M., & Herrmann, E. (2019) Helping in young children and chimpanzees is partial toward friends. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Herrmann, E., Haux, L.M., Zeidler, H., & Engelmann, J.M. (2019) Human children but not chimpanzees make irrational decisions driven by social comparison. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Herrmann, E., Engelmann, J.M., Tomasello, M. (2019) Children engage in competitive altruism. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 179. 176-189.

Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2018) Concern for group reputation increases prosociality in young children. Psychological Science. 29(2). 181-190

Melis, A.P., Engelmann, J.M., & Warneken, F. (2018) Correspondence: Chimpanzee helping is real, not a byproduct. Nature Communications. 9.

Engelmann, J.M. & Rapp, D.J. (2018) The influence of reputational concerns on children’s prosociality. Current Opinion in Psychology. 20. 92-95.

Engelmann, J.M., Clift, J., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2017) Social disappointment explains chimpanzees’ behavior in the inequity aversion task. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284(1861). 20171502.

Rapp, D.J., Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2017) The impact of free choice on young children’s prosocial development. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 158. 112-121.

Haux, L.M., Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2016) Do young children trust gossip or their own observations? Social Development. doi: 10.1111/sode.12225.

Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., Rapp, D.J., & Tomasello, M. (2016) Young children (sometimes) do the right thing even if their peers do not. Cognitive Development. 39. 86-92.

Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2016) Preschoolers affect others’ reputations through prosocial gossip. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 34(3). 447-460.

Engelmann, J.M., & Herrmann, E. (2016). Chimpanzees trust their friends. Current Biology. 26(2). 252-256.

Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2016) The effects of being watched on resource acquisition in chimpanzees and human children. Animal Cognition. 19(1), 147-151.

Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2015) Chimpanzees trust conspecifics to engage in low-cost reciprocity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 282(1801). 20142803.

Engelmann J.M., Over, H., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2013) Young children care more about their reputation with ingroup members and potential reciprocators. Developmental Science. 16(6). 952-958.

Engelmann, J.M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2012) Five-year-olds, but not chimpanzees, attempt to manage their reputations. PLoS ONE. 7(10). E48433.

Book Chapters

Engelmann, J.M., & Tomasello, M. (2018) The middle step: joint intentionality as human-unique form of second-personal engagement. In Jankovic, M., & Ludwig, K., (eds.) The Routledge Handbook on Collective Intentionality. Routledge.

Engelmann, J.M., & Tomasello, M. (2017) Prosociality and morality in children and chimpanzees. In Helwig, C. (ed.) New Perspectives on Moral Development.

Engelmann, J.M., & Zeller, C. (2017) Doing the right thing for the wrong reason: reputation and moral behavior. In Julian Kiverstein (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of the Social Mind. Routledge. 247-261.