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Dr Emma Tecwyn

Dr Emma Tecwyn

Research Associate

School of Psychology

+44 (0)029 2087 4007
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT


Research summary

My research is in the related areas of cognitive development  and comparative cognition. I am equally interested in how the human mind  develops across childhood, and the ways in which humans’ cognitive abilities  are similar to and different from those of other animals.

I am currently working on an interdisciplinary  Leverhulme-funded project investigating time and causality in cognitive  development.
Some of my other current research interests include:

  • Social-causal reasoning in children and  non-human animals
  • Physical and social problem-solving in dogs
  • Statistical inference in non-human animals

For further details, please see my personal  webpage:

Teaching summary

In  my previous position at the University of Toronto, Canada, I taught courses in  Cognitive Development and Comparative Cognition. I also supervised several  undergraduate research assistants.


Undergraduate education

BSc Biological Sciences with Studies in Continental Europe,  University of Birmingham (2002-2006)

Postgraduate education

PhD Biological Sciences, University of Birmingham  (2009-2013) MSc Animal Behaviour, Manchester Metropolitan  University (2006-2007)


Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, University of  Toronto, Canada (2014-2017)

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, School of Psychology &  Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, UK (2013-2014)








Research topics and related papers

Time and Causality  in Cognitive Development

Research with  adults has demonstrated that our causal knowledge (i.e., knowledge about  relationships between actions and outcomes) can influence our perception of  time. For example, if an adult believes that two events are causally related  (e.g. pushing the button at the traffic lights causes the light to change),  then the temporal distance between these two events is perceived as shorter  than if they hadn’t pushed the button; thus the two events are 'bound’ closer  together in time (temporal binding). Similarly, causal knowledge can also  influence the perceived temporal order of events. Returning to the traffic  light example, because adults believe that pushing the button causes the light  to change, then even if the reverse was actually true (i.e. the light actually  changed before they pushed the button), they would still perceive the light as  changing after they pushed the button; that is, they reorder events to fit  their causal beliefs (temporal reordering).

To date, very little research has  examined whether children are also susceptible to these to these effects. In  collaboration with colleagues at Cardiff, Queen’s University Belfast, UCL the  University of Warwick and the University of Sheffield I am developing paradigms  to investigate these phenomena in primary school-aged children.  Elucidating whether children experience these  distortions of time perception, and if/how they change across development will  have significant implications for psychological and philosophical debates  regarding our experience of time, causality, agency and consciousness.

Social-causal  reasoning in children and non-human animals

Observing the effects of other individuals’ actions is a  valuable way to learn how complex objects and artefacts work. But how does a  learner infer which out of potentially many actions they see a social partner  perform are causally necessary? In collaboration with researchers at the  University of Toronto and the University of St Andrews, this project uses a  developmental, comparative and computational approach to investigate how non-human  animals (primates and dogs) and human children combine different sources of  information to make causal inferences, including how differences in the  intentions and pedagogical stance of a social demonstrator change their choices  of which causal actions to imitate. Answering this question has implications  for understanding the mechanisms underpinning uniquely-human cumulative  culture.

Physical and social problem-solving  in domestic dogs

In comparison to the recent explosion of research on dog  social cognition, relatively little is known about their physical cognition  skills; that is, their intuitions about inanimate object properties, the  interactions between them, and the physical forces that act upon them. What  little we do know suggests that in contrast to their impressive socio-cognitive  abilities, dogs’ ability to solve problems that involve knowledge of the  physical world may be relatively impoverished. However, the tasks that have  been presented to dogs to date have been relatively complex. With collaborators  at the University of Toronto, I am presenting dogs with some classic physical  reasoning tasks from developmental psychology, to better understand what  factors guide their behaviour when searching for displaced objects. In another  line of research, in collaboration with the Yale Canine Cognition Centre, we  are investigating how dogs evaluate information provided by human social  informants.  For example, are dogs able  to track the relative accuracy of two informants, and do they consider consensus  between informants?

Intuitive statistics  in non-human animals

The  aim of this project is to expand research into the evolutionary origins of  intuitive statistics. Recent research has demonstrated that both pre-verbal  children and non-human apes are able to make predictions regarding samples  drawn from populations of items. These findings suggest that the capacity for  intuitive statistics may be shared by humans and other great apes. Of interest  from an evolutionary perspective is whether this cognitive ability is also  shared with other less closely related non-human species. We recently found  that capuchin monkeys seem to share the capacity for intuitive statistics with  apes, and with collaborators at the University of Toronto we are currently  adapting the methodology to test domestic dogs.

Research collaborators

Marc Buehner (Cardiff University)
Teresa McCormack (Queen’s University Belfast)
David Lagnado (UCL)
Christoph Hoerl (University of Warwick)
Emma Blakey (University of   Sheffield)
Daphna Buchsbaum (University of Toronto)
Amanda Seed   (University of St Andrews)
Angie Johnston (Yale University)
Stephanie Denison (University of Waterloo)

Media activities

How do dogs learn? U of T’s undergrads look for answers. U of T News (March 2017):

Like humans, capuchin monkeys can determine probability,  study finds. CBC News (Jan 2017):

Guest on Spit  and Twitches: The Animal Cognition Podcast. (April 2016):