NEAD Neuroscience of Emotion and Affective Dynamics Lab

Stacks Image 79

Email. ObscureMyEmail

Dr. Thibaud Gruber
Senior researcher

After a Bachelor in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon and a Master in Cognitive Sciences at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, I started a PhD in Psychology at the University of St Andrews, UK studying the origins of tool use and culture by implementing field experiments in several chimpanzee communities in the Ugandan rain forest. During this time, I also developed an interest in primate vocalizations, which has remained to this day. Following my PhD, I joined the Centre Norbert Elias, a CNRS unit, and the Anthropological Institute and Museum at the University of Zürich for my first postdoctoral experience supported by the Fyssen Foundation, to study the cognitive bases of cultural behaviour in chimpanzees and orangutans. I continued this work by joining the Department of Comparative Psychology at the University of Neuchâtel as a Intra-European Marie Curie Fellow (now known as Marie Curie Sklodowska fellowship), before joining the NEAD to study emotions in vocalizations in human and nonhuman primates, supported by an interdisciplinary project of the Swiss National Science Foundation. The SNSF is also funding me through an Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford, UK, where I continue studying tool use in chimpanzees.

In recent years, I have developed my own independent approach to great ape cognition, bringing a cognitive perspective to the analysis of the mechanisms underlying the cultural transmission process. I have applied this representational approach, heavily-based on cognitive science, to the domains of animal culture and communication. At the University of Geneva, I am engaged in a comparative project aiming to develop methods to analyse great apes’ abilities to discriminate and categorise emotions, together with Didier Grandjean and Coralie Debracque. I have also collaborated with Fabrice Clément's group at the University of Neuchâtel to develop developmental studies with human children, with a particular focus on in-group/out-group social learning. I'm also conducting cross-cultural work in France and Serbia. 

Peer reviewed articles

In press

Frick, A., Clément, F. § & Gruber, T. § (in press) Evidence for a sex effect during overimitation: Boys copy irrelevant modelled actions more than girls across cultures. Royal Society Open Science § joint senior authors

Gruber, T. (in press). Getting to know the family to save them. Conservation Biology.

Gruber, T., Deschenaux, A., Frick, A., & Clément, F. (in press) Group membership influences more social identification than social learning or overimitation in children. Child Development.


Gruber, T. & Grandjean, D. (2017). A comparative neurological approach to emotional expressions in primate vocalizations. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 73, 182-190.

Lamon, N., Neumann, C., Gruber, T.§ & Zuberbühler, K.§ (2017) Kin-based cultural transmission of tool use in wild chimpanzees. Science Advances, 3, e1602750. § joint senior authors


Gruber, T. (2016) Great apes do not learn novel tool use easily: Conservatism, functional fixedness or cultural influence? International Journal of Primatology, 37(2), 296-316.

Gruber, T. & Clay, Z. (2016) A comparison between bonobos and chimpanzees: A review and update. Evolutionary Anthropology, 25, 239-252.

Gruber, T., Zuberbühler, K. & Neumann, C. (2016) Travel fosters tool use in wild chimpanzees. eLife, 10.7554/eLife.16371.

Sievers, C. & Gruber, T. (2016) Functional reference, semantic reference and pragmatics: What does it take to refer? Animal Cognition, 19(4), 759-768.

Townsend, S., Koski, S., Byrne, R., Slocombe, K., Bickel, B., Braga Goncalves, I., Boeckle, M., Burkart, J., Flower, T., Gaunet, F., Glock, H., Gruber, T., Jansen, D., Liebal, K., Linke, A., Miklosi, A., Moore, R., van Schaik, C., Stoll, S., Vail, A., Waller, B., Wild, M., Zuberbühler, K. & Manser, M. (2016) Exorcising Grice’s ghost: an empirical approach to studying intentional communication in animals. Biological Reviews 10.1111/brv.12289


Gruber, T., Poisot, T., Zuberbühler, K., Hoppitt, W. & Hobaiter, C. (2015) The spread of a novel behaviour in wild chimpanzees: New insights into the ape cultural mind. Communicative & Integrative Biology, 8(2), e1017164.

Gruber, T., Zuberbühler, K., Clément, F. & van Schaik, C.P. (2015) The Jourdain Hypothesis: Apes have culture but may not know that they do. Frontiers in Psychology, 6:91. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00091.


Gruber, T. (2014) Wild born orangutans (Pongo abelii) engage in triadic interactions during play. International Journal of Primatology, 35(2), 411-424.

Gruber, T. (2014). Tool Use in Animals: Cognition and Ecology. C.M. Sanz, J. Call, C. Boesch. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. American Anthropologist, 116, 475-476.

Hobaiter, C., Poisot, T., Zuberbühler, K., Hoppitt, W. & Gruber, T. (2014) Social network analysis shows direct evidence for social transmission of tool use in wild chimpanzees. PLOS Biology 12(9): e1001960. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001960.


Gruber, T. & Zuberbühler, K. (2013) Vocal recruitment for joint travel in wild chimpanzees. PLOS ONE, 8(9): e76073. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076073.

Gruber, T. (2013) Historical hypotheses of chimpanzee tool use behaviour in relation to natural and human-induced changes in an East African rain forest. Revue de Primatologie, 5, document 66. doi: 10.4000/primatologie.1690.

Gruber, T. (2013) Uncovering the cultural knowledge of sanctuary apes. Communicative & Integrative Biology, 6(3), e23833.


Gruber, T. & Zuberbühler, K. (2012) Evolutionary origins of the human cultural mind. The Psychologist, 25(5):364- 68.

Gruber, T., Potts, K.B., Krupenye, C., Byrne, M.-R., Mackworth-Young, C. McGrew, W.C., Reynolds, V. & Zuberbühler, K. (2012) The influence of ecology on animal cultural behaviour: A case study of five Ugandan chimpanzee communities. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 126(4):446-57.

Gruber, T., Singleton, I. & van Schaik, C.P. (2012) Sumatran orangutans differ in their cultural knowledge but not in their cognitive abilities. Current Biology, 22(23), 2231-2235.


Clay, Z., Pika, S., Gruber, T. & Zuberbühler, K. (2011) Female bonobos use copulation calls as social signals. Biology Letters, 7(4):513-6.

Gruber, T., Muller, M.N., Reynolds, V., Wrangham, R.W. & Zuberbühler, K. (2011) Community-specific evaluation of tool affordances in wild chimpanzees. Scientific Reports, 1, doi:10.1038/srep00128


Gruber, T. & Nagle, L. (2010) Territorial reactions of male Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) toward a specific song structure. Journal of Ornithology, 151, 645-654.

Gruber, T., Clay, Z. & Zuberbühler, K. (2010) A comparison of bonobo and chimpanzee tool use: evidence for a female bias in the Pan lineage. Animal Behaviour, 80(6), 1023-1033.

Gruber, T., Reynolds, V. & Zuberbühler, K. (2010) The knowns and unknowns of chimpanzee culture. Communicative & Integrative Biology, 3(3): 221–223.


Gruber, T., Muller, M.N., Strimling, P., Wrangham, R.W. & Zuberbühler, K. (2009) Wild chimpanzees rely on cultural knowledge to solve an experimental honey acquisition task. Current biology, 19(21):1806-10.



Sievers, C., Wild, M. and Gruber, T. (2017) Intentionality and flexibility in animal communication. In: Andrews. K. and Beck, J., Eds. The Handbook of the Philosophy of Animal Minds. Routledge.



Gruber T, Frühholz S, Debracque C, Igloi K, Marin Bosch B, Grandjean D, (2016). Human recognition of emotions in voices: a fNIRS study. fNIRS16 international meeting, Paris, France, 12-17 October.