Area of Research
Focal questions: Why do individuals cooperate with each other? How cooperation partners are chosen?
General idea: Elucidating the evolutionary mechanism of cooperation has proven to be challenging despite theoretical and empirical explanations. A significant lack in the experimental shreds of evidence regarding the proximate mechanisms can be held responsible.
Focal questions: How personality of animals impact cooperation?
General idea: Animals are known to have personalities, just like we humans have. Using a multi-method approach of behavioural observations and experiments, I am investigating the personalities of approximately 150 macaques from six different species. This will further be used to deduce whether animals with similar personalities cooperate with each other or not.
Focal questions: Do prosocial individuals cooperate more?
General idea: Prosociality is the tendency to help others at low or no cost. I am using a 'Group-service paradigm' to assess prosocial tendencies across different macaque species. Finally, I want to examine whether prosociality predicts the propensity and magnitude of cooperative interactions.
Focal questions: How physiological mechanisms (emotions) impact cooperation?
General idea: Animals differ in their emotional responses. Using a non-invasive infra-red thermography approach, I am trying to see whether emotional arousal correlates with cooperative success and personality traits.
Focal questions: How dogs and their food resources are distributed in India?
Natural history is an area of research involving organisms, in their natural environment, leaning largely towards observational than experimental methods of study. It involves the systematic study of any category of natural organisms. Fleischner pointed out natural history as "a reliance on direct observation as the most trustworthy tool for learning. Natural history studies primarily focus on the following questions - What animal is it? Where does the animal live? How many animals are there? How does the animal survive? How did the animal come to be like it is and live where it does? Therefore, natural history studies can generate vast amount of data regarding the ecology of a species, its interaction with other species, and the overall dynamics. We are conducting pan-India sampling to understand the natural history of free-ranging dogs.
Focal questions: How free-ranging dogs solve problem-solving tasks in the presence & absence of conspecifics?
Physical cognition refers to how animals use and acquire information about the physical world. In order to survive, animals perform varying tasks that need extensive physical abilities (e.g. tool-use). Free-ranging dogs are accustomed to scavenging from open garbage dumps or closed plastic bags carrying food. Therefore, physical cognition is crucial for these dogs for survival. We are looking at dogs’ physical cognitive abilities towards familiar and unfamiliar solvable tasks.
Focal questions: Do these dogs understand human social cues? How dogs interact with humans?
Social cognition is an umbrella term used to describe cognitive processes related to the perception, understanding, and implementation of linguistic, auditory, visual, and physical cues that communicate emotional and interpersonal information. We are conducting a range of studies to understand the socio-cognitive skills of free-ranging dogs. These dogs have been shown to follow human pointing cues, from simple to complex. Moreover, they exhibited situation-specific responsiveness to typically used human social cues. We are conducting further experiments on social cognition to understand these 'smart' animals more.
Focal questions: How humans and dogs influence each other's behaviour?
Human - Animal interaction is a relatively new but trending area of scientific research. Of particular interest is the dog-human interaction. They are also arguably the first species to have been domesticated, 10,000 – 15,000 years ago, from wolf-like ancestors. Unfortunately, research on dogs has been primarily restricted to pet dogs in the United States and Europe. We are trying to understand the free-ranging dog-human relationship by experimental and observational field studies.