Gillian Vale, Ph.D.

Conservation & Science
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes
Assistant Director

Areas of Expertise

  • Primate behavior and cognition
  • Primate social cognition
  • Animal cultures and cultural processes


Gillian Vale, Ph.D., is the Assistant Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. Gillian is a comparative psychologist and her research focuses on the social and cognitive abilities of human and nonhuman primates. In particular, she researches primate traditions (or cultures), how they emerge through innovation and social transmission, and their complexity. She investigates whether animal cultures evolve and improve across generations, similar to what we see in human cultures.

Previously, Gillian worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the labs of both Georgia State comparative psychologist Sarah Brosnan and British primatologist and psychologist Andrew Whiten. In those positions, she spent much of her time with various primate species to better understand their complex social lives. At Lincoln Park Zoo, Gillian now oversees the primate cognition program, which uses technology (touchscreens) to understand the minds of our primate relatives: what they prefer, feel, and more. Gillian and the Fisher Center team also develop enriching tasks to engage the minds of primates. This allows the center to explore how apes and macaques learn—sometimes from each other—and how they develop skills such as extractive foraging with complex tool technologies.

Gillian curates the Fisher Center internship program, which provides professional development opportunities to the next generation of primatologists and welfare scientists. Her team enables the center to closely monitor the health and well-being of primates by recording their behavior using the ZooMonitor app.


  • Leinwand, J. G., & Vale, G. L. (2023). Compassion fatigue in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) caregivers: Prevalence, contributing factors, and coping mechanisms. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 5(1), 1–18.
  • Wood, L. A., Vale, G. L., Flynn, E. G., & Rawlings, B. S. (2023). Cross-species comparisons of human and non-human culture: Approaches, discoveries, limitations, and future directions. In J. J. Tehrani, J. Kendal, & R. Kendal (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Evolution (Online Edition). Oxford University Press.
  • Vale GL, Coughlin C, Brosnan SF. (2022) The importance of thinking about the future in culture and cumulative cultural evolution. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 20210349.
  • Vale, GL. Williams, L., Neal Webb, S, Schapiro, SJ & Brosnan, S.F (in press). Female squirrel monkeys’ (Saimiri boloviensis) responses to inequity in a group context; testing a link between cooperation and inequity responses. Animal Behaviour.
  • Whiten, A., Harrison, R. A., McGuigan, N., Vale, G. L., & Watson, S. K. (2022). Collective knowledge and the dynamics of culture in chimpanzees. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, 377(1843), 20200321.
  • Rawlings, B, Legare, C, Brosnan, SF & Vale, GL. (2021). Levelling the playing field in cumulative cultural evolution: conceptual and methodological advances in nonhuman primate research. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition. 47(3), 252.
  • Vale, G.L., McGuigan, N., Burdett, E., Lambeth, S.P., Lucas, A., Rawlings, B., Schapiro, S.J., Watson, S.K. and Whiten, A., 2021. Why do chimpanzees have diverse behavioral repertoires yet lack more complex cultures? Invention and social information use in a cumulative task. Evolution and Human Behavior, 42(3), pp.247-258.
  • Vale, GL & Whiten, A (2021). Copying. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior.
  • Vale, GL & Brosnan, SF. (2020). Putting chimpanzee cooperation in context. In LM Hopper & S. Ross (Eds.) Chimpanzees in Context. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Vale, GL, Williams, LE, Schapiro, SJ, Lambeth, SP, & Brosnan, SF. (2019). Responses to economic games of cooperation and conflict in squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis). Animal Behavior and Cognition, 6(1), 32- 47.
  • Watson, SK, Vale, GL, Hopper, LM, Dean, LG, Kendal, RL, Price, EE, … & Whiten, A. (2018). Chimpanzees demonstrate individual differences in social information use. Animal Cognition, 21(5), 639-650.
  • Vale, GL, Dean, L & Whiten, A. (2018). Culture, non-human. In H. Callan (Ed) International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Dean, L, Vale, GL & Whiten, A. (2018). Traditions, imitation and social learning. In H. Callan (Ed) International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Vale, GL & Brosnan, SF (2017). Inequity aversion. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior.
  • Vale, GL, Carr, K, Dean, L & Kendal, R. (2017). The cultural capacity of human andnonhuman primates: Social learning, innovation and cumulative cultural evolution. In JH Kaas (Ed) Evolution of Nervous Systems 2nd Edition. J H. Oxford UK: Elsevier.
  • Vale, GL, Flynn, EG., Kendal, J, Rawlings, B, Hopper, LM., Schapiro, SJ., … & Kendal, RL. (2017). Testing differential use of payoff-biased social learning strategies in children and chimpanzees. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1868), 20171751.
  • Vale, GL, Davis, SJ, Lambeth, SP, Schapiro, SJ, & Whiten, A. (2017). Acquisition of a socially learned tool use sequence in chimpanzees: implications for cumulative culture. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(5), 635-644.
  • McGuigan, N, Burdett, E, Burgess, V, Dean, L, Lucas, A, Vale, G, & Whiten, A. (2017). Innovation and social transmission in experimental micro-societies: exploring the scope of cumulative culture in young children. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372(1735), 20160425.
  • Vale, GL, Davis, SJ, Van De Waal, E, Schapiro, SJ, Lambeth, SP., & Whiten, A. (2017). Lack of conformity to new local dietary preferences in migrating captive chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour, 124, 135-144.
  • Watson, SK, Reamer, LA, Mareno, MC, Vale, G, Harrison, RA, Lambeth, SP, … & Whiten, A. (2017). Socially transmitted diffusion of a novel behavior from subordinate chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology, 79(6).
  • Davis, SJ, Vale, GL, Schapiro, SJ, Lambeth, SP, & Whiten, A. (2016). Foundations of cumulative culture in apes: improved foraging efficiency through relinquishing and combining witnessed behaviours in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Scientific Reports, 6, 35953.
  • Vale GL, Flynn, EG, Pender, L, Price, E, Whiten, A, Lambeth, S, Schapiro, S, & Kendal, RL (2016). Robust retention and transfer of tool construction in chimpanzees. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 130(1), 24-35.
  • Vale GL, Flynn, EG, Lambeth, S, Schapiro, S, & Kendal, RL (2014). Public information use in chimpanzees and children. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 128(2), 215-223.
  • Dean L*, Vale GL*, Laland KN, Flynn E, Kendal RL. (2014). Human cumulative culture: A comparative perspective. Biological Reviews, 89(2), 284-301. Vale GL, Flynn, EG, & Kendal, RL (2012). Cumulative culture and future thinking: is mental time travel a prerequisite of cumulative culture? Learning & Motivation, 43(4), 220-230.
  • Kendal RL, Custance D, Kendal JR, Vale GL, Stoinski T, Rakotomalala, NI & Rasaminanana, H. (2010). Evidence for social learning in wild lemurs (Lemur catta). In the special issue entitled Capturing Social Learning in Natural Contexts: Methodological Insights and Implications for Culture (Kendal RL, Galef BG, van Schaik CP, eds.) Learning & Behavior, 38, 220-234.
*indicates joint first authorship
Chimpanzees socializing at Chimp Haven
Enhancing Animal Welfare, At Zoos
A Zoo-sanctuary Partnership for Chimpanzees
Zoo staff observing chimpanzees in exhibit
At Zoos, Enhancing Animal Welfare
Studying Primate Behavior
Western lowland gorilla using a touchscreen computer in exhibit
At Zoos, Enhancing Animal Welfare
Using Technology to Study Primate Cognition
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