Bonobo Research
Development Research
Christine M. Johnson PhD

Department of Cognitive Science
University of California San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515



Cogs 17  Cognitive Neuroscience

Cogs 101A  Human Perception

Cogs 102A  Distributed Cognition

Cogs 143  Animal Cognition

Cogs 184  Modeling Cognitive Evolution

Cogs 199  Independent Studies:
Comparative Social Cognition


   Signature whistle use
   Vocal & behavioral imitation
   Visible & invisible displacement
   Gesture development
   Triadic attention
Elephants' Social Construction of Space
Ontogeny of Human Triadic Attention
My primary interest is in the evolution of social cognition and in taking a comparative approach to its study. In our lab, we do observational analyses of real-world interactions between socially sophisticated animals, including dolphins, bonobos, elephants and humans. These multi-scalar analyses include moment-by-moment video and audio analyses, situated within longer term behavioral patterns. By applying a model of "Distributed Cognition"* to such interactions, we aim to understand the media of information flow in these engagements, and the constraints on behavioral co-regulation in these dynamic systems.


Herzing, D.L. & Johnson, C.M. (2015). Dolphin Communication & Cognition. MIT Press.

Johnson, C.M., Sullivan, J., Buck, C.L., Trexel, J. & Scarpuzzi, M. (2015) Visible & invisible displacement with dynamic visual occlusion in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp). Animal Cognition, 18, 179-193.

de Barbaro, K., Johnson, C.M. & Deak, G.O. (2013) Twelve-month "social revolution" emerges from mother-infant sensorimotor coordination: A longitudinal investigation. Human Development, 56, 223-248.

Johnson, C.M. (2010) Observing cognitive complexity in primates and cetaceans. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23, 587-624.

Horbach, K.M., Friedman, W.R. & Johnson, C.M. (2010) The occurrence and context of S-Posture display by captive belugas (Delphinapterus leucas). International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23, 289-700.

Hutchins, E. & Johnson, C.M. (2009) Modeling the emergence of language as an embodied collective cognitive activity. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 523-546.

Johnson, C. M. & Karin-D'Arcy, M.R. (2006) Social attention in nonhuman primates: A behavioral review. Aquatic Mammals, 32, No 4:423-442.

Johnson, C. M. & Herzing, D. L. (2006) Primate, cetacean & pinniped cognition compared: An introduction. Aquatic Mammals, 32, No 4:409-412.

Johnson, C.M. (2004). The micro-ethology of social attention: "Brightness" in bonobos. Folia Primatologica: 75(suppl 1), 175.

Johnson, C.M. (2002). The Vygotskian advantage in cognitive modeling: Participation precedes and thus prefigures understanding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25: 628-629.

Johnson, C. M. (2001) Distributed primate cognition: A review. Animal Cognition 3, No 4:167-183

Johnson, C.M. & Keil F.C. (2000) Explanatory knowledge and conceptual combinations. In F.C. Keil & R.A. Wilson (Eds) Explanation and Cognition, pp: 327-360, MIT Press, Cambridge.

Johnson, C. M., Frank, R. E. & Flynn, D. (1999) Peering in mature, captive bonobos (Pan paniscus). Primates, 40.2: 397-407.

Johnson, C.M. & Moewe, K. (1999) Pectoral fin preference during contact in Commerson's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus commersonii). Aquatic Mammals, 25.2: 73-77.

Herzing, D. L. & Johnson, C. M. (1997) Interspecies interactions between Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Bahamas, 1985-1995. Aquatic Mammals, 23: 85-99.

Johnson, C.M. (1994). Whales and dolphins: Acoustic signals. In R.E. Asher (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Vol. 9: pp 4972-80. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Bauer, G.B. & Johnson, C.M. (1994). Trained motor imitation by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Perceptual and Motor Skills, 79: 1307-1315.

Johnson, C.M. & Norris, K.S. (1994). Social behavior. In K.S. Norris, B. Wursig, R.S. Wells & M. Wursig (Eds.) The Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pp. 243-286

Johnson, C.M. (1993). Animal communication via coordinated cognitive systems. In P.P.G. Bateson, N. Thompson & P. Klopfer (Eds.) Perspectives in Ethology, Volume X: Variability in Behavior, pp. 187-207. NY: Plenum.

Johnson, C.M. (1990). Evolutionary, comparative, and psycholinguistic investigations on the nature of higher-order cognitive processes. Ph.D. Thesis. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

*With thanks... Hutchins E (1995) Cognition in the wild. MIT Press, Cambridge MA

Site last updated: Oct 2015