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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Dr Elisabetta Versace


Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Telephone: +44 20 7882 8798
Room Number: 2.21c, Fogg Building


  • Diversity and Ecology (SEF033)
  • Animal Behaviour and Cognition (PSY315)
  • Essential Skills for Psychologists (PSY100)
  • Comparative Psychology (PSY235)


Research Interests:

Research Interests:

Foundations of knowledge and evolution of behaviour

Living beings come to this world equipped with unlearned capacities to interact with the environment. For instance, chicks do not need any training to preferentially approach animate objects, orient in space and recognize familiar individuals. Other predispositions include specialized mechanisms for learning that are used in filial imprinting and language. My research is focused on the evolution of the fundamental building blocks of behaviour and cognition, predisposed behaviours and specialized learning mechanisms. My analyses span from behavioural to genomic data. Precocial species (e.g. chicks of the domestic fowl, tortoises) and insects are valuable models to conduct these studies.

Current Projects

Predispositions and social behaviour We study the knowledge and abilities that animals possess at the onset of life using domestic chicks and tortoises as models. Where does knowledge come from?

Artificial grammar learning To make sense of our experience animals identify patterns that are used as predictors. We investigate these abilities in different species, to discover the building blocks of pattern recognition. How is this related to language?

Lateralization Even if we appear symmetrical on the surface, the two parts of the brain have different specialisations, with implications that range from perceptual abilities to social behaviour in a wide range of species.

Insect behaviour and cognition The study of cognitive abilities in insects has revealed how complex behaviours can be performed by tiny animals with brains enormously smaller than ours. We focus on fruit flies and bees.

Animal robots and artificial intelligence for life In collaboration with the Advanced Robotics center at Queen Mary University, we develop animal robots and automated systems to investigate the social behaviour of different species.

Research department



Current PhD opportunities

PhD supervision

Postdoctoral supervision

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