Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Francesca De Petrillo

Lecturer in Psychology


I received my Ph.D. in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, with a focus on Anthropology, from the University Sapienza of Rome, Italy, where I compared economic decision-making strategies across adults, young children, and non-human primate species to shed light on the evolutionary origins and developmental trajectories of human decision-making. I then completed two postdoctoral fellowships, first at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, and then at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, France. During this period, I compared decision-making and cognitive control across multiple primate species, including rhesus macaques, Barbary macaques, and lemurs, to test how socioecology shapes cognition. 


My research seeks to elucidate how different species acquire and process information from the physical and the social world and whether variation in cognitive abilities, including decision strategies, relates to differences in life history, ecology, and social structure. I address these questions by studying the cognitive abilities supporting decision-making and executive control of different primate populations, including captive brown capuchin monkeys, free-ranging populations of macaques, and different species of lemurs. Other aspects of my research examine the origins of monetary systems, specifically whether the ability to categorize money can be traced back to non-human primates. To do so, I analyse the exchange behaviour of brown tufted capuchin monkeys. 


I am the module leader for PSY2020: Evolution, behaviour and comparative cognition and for PSY1006: Instinct, Learning, and Motivation.