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Liveable Planet Lunch Series “A Forest of Knowledge – Investigations on foraging cognition in tropical forest foragers”

Thursday 17 November 2022
Liveable communities – Liveable Planet
Hybrid: Live in the Van Steenis building (E001), and online in MS Teams

We invite you to join us for the Liveable Planet Lunch Meeting on Thursday November 17, at 12:00. You can attend the meeting Live in the van Steenis building, room E.001, or online using the link at the bottom of this invitation.

In this lunch meeting Prof. Dr. Karline Janmaat (Department of Cognitive Psychology) will tell us about her research in a presentation titled “A Forest of Knowledge – Investigations on foraging cognition in tropical forest foragers”, followed by an opportunity to discuss.


All our closest-living relatives live in tropical rainforests. They rely on forest foods, such as energy-rich ripe fruits that can have complex distributions in time and space. In this presentation, I discuss what cognitive abilities non-human primates use to find forest fruit and how comparative studies within the primate order can inform us about the origins of our own cognition. A prerequisite for such comparative studies is to know the extent of each species’ ability. When deciding which food source to travel to, foragers can use a variety of mechanisms that help them to acquire, incorporate and act upon public and personal information - think of the sound of other foragers or the spatial memory of a food tree. Such foraging decisions show similarities with the decisions we make in our current society. However, few of us still search for food on a daily basis. Are we the best population to represent the cognitive capacities of the human species? Because I doubt this, I started investigating the foraging cognition of modern hunter-gatherers, the BaYaka, in the Republic of Congo in 2015. I will discuss evidence of their exceptional orientation abilities, including that of BaYaka children, but will also present our latest findings on the development of their botanical knowledge. Forests are disappearing all over the world, which has large consequences for our climate, biodiversity, and human diet. With these forests, we moreover, lose knowledge of the evolutionary history and extent of our cognition, making the conservation of these forests incredibly important. I will end the presentation with a brief outlook on the future and explain why I think that a better understanding of the origins and extent of our cognition could help us create a more sustainable future.”

Liveable communities – Liveable Planet

The Liveable Planet programme is one of the eight interdisciplinary programmes that were launched at Leiden University in 2020

Leiden’s Liveable Planet programme aims to combine scientific, policy, socio-cultural and historical/archaeological research at Leiden University into coherent research with which we can tackle the major challenges of a transition to a habitable planet with ecological sustainability. The programme will  serve as a hub for the wide range of relevant research carried out within Leiden University and welcomes interaction with colleagues interested in contributing to the initiative within as well as outside of Leiden University.

Liveable communities – Liveable Planet

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