In my doctoral dissertation I am studying possession and property ownership from an evolutionary and developmental perspective. Property ownership plays a critical role in many social interactions and is most likely a product of human cultural evolution. Nevertheless, I am interested in studying whether precursors of property ownership might be found in our closest living relatives - the great apes. Inspired by my earlier work on decision making in apes, I developed the idea to study one particular psychological bias in decision making that is related to the possession of objects, namely the endowment effect. At the moment I am conducting a comparative study where I investigate this effect in great apes and young children. This project is in collaboration with Josep Call (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) and Laurie Santos (Yale University). In addition, I am very interested in how children and adults conceptualize ownership and how these concepts might change in the course of development. In particular, I started to investigate the relation between (creative) labour and property ownership. At the moment I am conducting studies with children and adults where I explore whether labour invested in creating an object can overrule previous ownership of the materials
After studying Biochemistry, Philosophy and Life Science in Frankfurt, Germany and at the University of Toronto, I graduate in 2007 with a degree in Neuroscience (diploma with distinction) from Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany. For my diploma thesis I conducted research at the Wolfgang-Köhler-Primate-Reseach-Center (WKPRC) at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology under the supervision of Josep Call. In my dissertation I investigated spatial search strategies in bonobos as part of the EU funded SEDSU (Stages in the evolution and development of sign use) project. In addition, I worked as a student research assistant and was involved in a project investigating cue use in spatial memory tasks in the four great apes species and in conducting behavioural observations of a group of chimpanzees. After my degree I stayed at the WKPRC to work as a research assistant, where I focused on investigating risky choices and decision making in bonobos and chimpanzees. In January 2009 I began a three-year PhD funded by a German scholarship program (Cusanuswerk), investigating the concept of property ownership from an evolutionary and developmental perspective.
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