• About

    I study animals and their sociality. The profound arrogance of our own species requires research that highlights the manifold ways in which we are not 'special,' broadening out from the human experience to recognize the interconnectedness amongst all living beings. Much of my work to date has focused on post-conflict behavior, and specifically resolution strategies like reconciliation that mitigate aggression and other conflicts-of-interest (an inevitable consequence of social life). My most recent research centers on consolation, which is considered a key behavioral marker of socio-emotional capacities like empathy. More specifically, I'm interested in comparative developmental approaches to the study of consolation behavior, results of which often challenge prevailing assumptions about the expression of empathy within and across species. Simultaneously, I have a deep and growing passion for animal ethics, human-animal relations, and the role of ethology (and science more broadly) in the animal turn.

  • PositionS

    📍I am currently a College Fellow in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

    I also hold a Visiting Scholar appointment in the Animal Ecology and Welfare Group at Utrecht University.

  • Research

    My 3 main lines of research:

    Post-conflict behavior

    My doctoral research focused on underlying individual motivations for conflict and post-conflict behavior in chimpanzees and humans. I believe that patterns of reconciliation provide unique information concerning individuals and relationships that traditional measures (e.g., of social personality and social bond strength) do not capture. One overarching question is whether the rarity of conflict, or the strategic management and resolution of conflict once it has occurred, is more predictive of successful relationships and thereby (individual) fitness. Currently my work in this area focuses on wild chacma baboons in collaboration with the Tsaobis Baboon Project in Namibia.

     

    Photo of L-troop (and me) on baboon hill, courtesy of Elise Huchard

    Empathy

    For many organisms, empathy is a key component of what it means to be 'social.' I employ comparative developmental approaches to study empathy's behavioral manifestations towards other group members, which can help address broader theoretical and philosophical questions about empathy's role in building better societies. At present, my main research assesses sex, age, and individual differences in consolation and other empathy-driven behaviors, including a large-scale species comparison between chimpanzees at Chimfunshi wildlife orphanage in Zambia and bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in DRC.

     

    Photo of Little Jane and Little Joey, courtesy of Jake Brooker

    Animal ethics

    Animal behavior science generates evidence on which animal ethical argumentation rests. However, rarely do scientists engage actively with debates concerning animal moral status. My growing interest in animal ethics and philosophy continually challenges aspects of my 'traditional' scientific training—which favored mechanistic accounts of animals' lives, thereby downplaying their rich mental and emotional worlds. Rethinking divides between subjective vs. objective, human vs. animal, and the "two cultures," I aim to counter notions of human exceptionalism and contribute to an interdisciplinary de-centering of humans' position in the natural order.

     

    Oil rendition of 'Lucas the Leopard,' courtesy of Mom

  • PUBLICATIONS

    Link to Google Scholar profile

    PDFs available via Research Gate

    2020

    Webb, C.E., Kolff, K., Du, X., & de Waal, F.B.M. (accepted). Jealous behavior in chimpanzees elicited by social intruders. Affective Science

     

    Webb, C.E., Woodford, P., & Huchard, E. (2020). The study that made rats jump for joy, and then killed them. BioEssays, 42(6): 2000030.

     

    Franks, B., Webb, C., Gagliano, M., & Smuts, B. (2020). Conventional science will not do justice to nonhuman interests: A fresh approach is required. Commentary on Treves et al. on 'Just Preservation.' Animal Sentience, 27(17): 1-5.

    2019

    Goldsborough, Z., van Leeuwen, E.J.C., Kolff, K., de Waal., F.B.M., & Webb, C.E. (2019). Do chimpanzees console a bereaved mother? Primates, 61(1): 93-102. [Social Impact Award]

     

    Webb, C.E., Woodford, P., & Huchard, E. (2019). Animal ethics and behavioral science: An overdue discussion? BioScience, 69(10): 778-788. [Editor's Choice]

     

    Webb, C.E.*, Baniel, A.*, Cowlishaw, G., & Huchard, E. (2019). Friend or foe: Reconciliation between males and females in wild chacma baboons. Animal Behaviour, 151: 145-155.

    2018

    Webb, C.E. & de Waal, F.B.M. (2018). Situating the study of jealousy within a relational context. Commentary on Cook et al. on 'Dog Jealousy.' Animal Sentience, 22(22): 1-5.

    2017

    Webb, C.E., Romero, T., Franks, B. & de Waal, F.B.M. (2017). Long-term consistency in chimpanzee consolation behaviour reflects empathetic personalities. Nature Communications, 8(292): 1-8.

     

    Webb, C.E., Rossignac-Milon, M. & Higgins, E.T. (2017). Stepping forward together: Could walking facilitate interpersonal conflict resolution? American Psychologist, 72(4): 374-385.

     

    Webb, C.E., Coleman, P. T., Rossignac-Milon, M., Tomasulo, S.J. & Higgins, E.T. (2017). Moving on or digging deeper: Regulatory mode and interpersonal conflict resolution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(4): 621-641.

    2016

    Webb, C.E. & Verbeek, P. (2016). Individual differences in aggressive and peaceful behavior: New insights and future directions. Behaviour, 153: 1139-1169.

    2014

    Webb, C.E., Franks, B., Romero, T., Higgins, E.T. & de Waal, F.B.M. (2014). Individual differences in chimpanzee reconciliation relate to social switching behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 90: 57-63.

    2012

    Plotnik, J.M., Pokorny, J.J., Keratimanochaya, T., Webb, C.E. et al. (2013). Visual cues given by humans are not sufficient for Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) to find hidden food. PLoS One, 8(4): e61174.

    2011

    Pokorny, J.J., Webb, C.E., & de Waal, F.B.M. (2011). Capuchin monkeys show specialized face processing with an inversion effect modified by expertise. Animal Cognition, 14(6): 839-846.

     

    *joint first authors

  • Teaching

    Upcoming / past courses

    Coexistence in Crisis

    Spring 2020

    Harvard University

    The Arrogant Ape

     

    Fall 2019

    Harvard University

    Primate Social Behavior

    Spring 2019

    Harvard University

    syllabus

    Introduction to Psychology

    Spring 2018

    University College Utrecht

    Primate Behavior & Conservation

    Fall 2014

    NYU

    syllabus

    Primate Social Psychology

    Fall 2014

    Columbia University

    syllabus

  • CV

    Download a copy of my CV or contact me for more information

  • Contact

    christinewebb@fas.harvard.edu

    The Art of Science

    Twitter

    Facebook

All Posts
×