Conservation & Science Staff Bios
Lydia Hopper, Ph.D.
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes
- Ph.D. –Social learning mechanisms of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens), University of St Andrews, UK
- B.S. – Psychology & Zoology, University of Liverpool, UK
Areas of Expertise
- Chimpanzee behavior
- Primate social cognition
- Comparative developmental psychology
About Lydia Hopper:
Lydia joined Lincoln Park Zoo in 2012 and works with Fisher Center Director Steve Ross, Ph.D., to design and coordinate the behavioral and cognitive research conducted by the Fisher Center team. These studies help us gain a deeper understanding of chimpanzee and gorilla behavior, which is vital for providing the best possible care to these complex and fascinating animals.
Lydia’s passion is primate social cognition: how individuals navigate their social world. To learn the most she can about nonhuman primate behavior—and to promote a comparative perspective—Lydia has been fortunate to work with a number of different species, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, rhesus macaques and squirrel monkeys.
Through her research, Lydia has not only highlighted many nuances of nonhuman primate behavior but has also shown how it compares and relates to our own behavioral strategies. Her expertise centers on social learning and behavioral economics. The first of these subjects—social learning—describes how an individual gains new skills from observing experienced individuals, such as when an infant chimpanzee watches her mother use stone tools to crack nuts.
In 2010, Lydia joined the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. There, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, she broadened the scope of her research to include studies of her second focus: behavioral economics.
Like us, certain primate species react negatively to receiving a less-preferred reward than the one given to a social partner. By combining her knowledge of social learning with this new topic of investigation, Lydia was able to help tease apart some of the individual and social factors that explain when and why apes and monkeys respond to inequity.