Laurie Santos

Head, Silliman College
Professor Psychology, Yale University

What makes humans unique

Add to Shortlist More Information @lauriesantos
Featured Media


Psychologist Dr. Laurie Santos is an expert on human cognition, its origins, and the evolutionary biases that influence our all-too imperfect life choices.

Dr. Santos' entertaining and compelling "monkeynomics" experiments demonstrate that primates — our closest animal relatives — have much to teach us about our own economic decision-making. Both monkeys and humans know a bargain when they see one, tend to spend rather than save, and allow context and risk aversion influence choice — often irrationally.

From her research, Santos speaks to how we are biologically programmed to be motivated by sex, to be deeply influenced by other people — and to repeat our mistakes. And while Santos often uses subjects from the animal kingdom to help explain our sometimes-illogical behaviors, she also provides advice on how to engage our uniquely human faculties to counteract evolution, choose more wisely, and live happier lives.

Dr. Santos was appointed Head of Silliman College on July 1, 2016 to a five year term. She obtained her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard. She is a professor of Psychology at Yale University, where she serves as Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory as well as the Canine Cognition Center, a research facility that studies how dogs think about the world. She teaches one of Yale's most popular undergraduate courses, Sex, Evolution, and Human Nature.

Her numerous awards for science, teaching, and mentorship include the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary research.

Dr. Santos' scientific research is widely published, and she and her work have been featured in numerous media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The New Yorker, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, and Discover Magazine, as well as on History Channel, NPR and NOVA. She was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10," and a TIME magazine “Leading Campus Celebrity”; her TED Talk has well over a million views.


The Origins of Object Knowledge

Editors by Laurie Santos and Bruce M. Hood

Do humans start life with the capacity to detect and mentally represent the objects around them? Or is our object knowledge instead derived only as the result of prolonged experience with the external world? Are we simply able to perceive objects by watching their actions in the world, or do we have to act on objects ourselves in order to learn about their behavior? Finally, do we come to know all aspects of objects in the same way, or are some aspects of our object understanding more epistemologically privileged than others?

The Origins of Object Knowledge presents the most up-to-date survey of the research into how the developing human mind understands the world of objects and their properties. It presents some of the best findings from leading research groups in the field of object representation approached from the perspective of developmental and comparative psychology.

Topics covered in the book all address some aspect of what objects are from a psychological perspective; how humans and animals conceive what they are made of; what properties they possess; how we count them and how we categorize them; even how the difference between animate and inanimate objects leads to different expectations. The chapters also cover the variety of methodologies and techniques that must be used to study infants, young children, and non-human primates and the value of combining approaches to discovering what each group knows.

Bringing together leading researchers, communicating the most contemporary and exciting findings within the field of object representation, this volume will be an important work in the cognitive sciences, and of interest to those across the fields of developmental and comparative psychology.

Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2009)



The Edge Foundation


Are We Wired To Be Bad With Money? | NPR

A monkey economy as irrational as ours | TEDGlobal 2010


— Yale Daily News
— Association for Psychological Science
— Yale Daily News
— Yale News
— Yale News
— Yale Alumni Magazine
— The Wall Street Journal
— Edge
— International Business Times