Dr. Christoph Völter


Curriculum Vitae

Christoph Völter received his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Konstanz in 2008. Following this, he completed a master’s degree course in Neuro-cognitive Psychology at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. In 2011, he began his PhD at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig where he studied the problem-solving abilities of human children and nonhuman primates. After the completion of his PhD in 2014, he continued his research with nonhuman great apes as a postdoc at the MPI in Leipzig. During this postdoc, he also conducted studies on the cognitive underpinnings of cooperative activities in chimpanzees, orangutans, and other taxa (including two otter species).

In 2016, Christoph moved to the University of St Andrews (UK) as a Research Fellow. Together with Dr Amanda Seed and Professor Josep Call, he developed a test battery for the investigation of executive functions in chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys. During his time at the University of St Andrews, he also worked as Associate Lecturer within the School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Christoph joined the Messerli’s Comparative Cognition Unit in 2019 as scientific staff member. His empirical and theoretical work is concerned with the evolutionary origins of flexible behaviour and abstract thought. Ongoing projects focus on elucidating the structure of individual differences in domain-general cognitive abilities such as inhibitory control and working memory. Besides, his research at the Messerli Research Institute will examine anticipatory looking in dogs and information seeking in dogs, keas, and pigs. 

Main Fields of Research

  • Comparative Psychometrics: individual differences in cognitive abilities in nonhuman animals
  • Anticipatory looking, information seeking, and curiosity
  • Concept formation
  • Problem-solving, tool-use, and causal cognition
  • Social manipulation and cooperation


Research Projects

  • The relationship between anticipatory looking and long-term memory in dogswith Sabrina Karl and Ludwig Huber

  • ManyPrimates: Establishing an infrastructure for collaboration in primate cognition research with Many Primates (for more information: manyprimates.github.io 2)
  • The structure of individual differences in executive functions in chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, and childrenwith Eva Reindl, Elisa Felsche, Josep Call, and Amanda Seed (University of St Andrews)

  • Motivational and cognitive underpinnings of cooperation in children, orangutans and chimpanzeeswith Federico Rossano (UCSD, San Diego) and Josep Call (University of St Andrews)

  • Evolution of abstract thinking in children, capuchin monkeys, and chimpanzees; with Elisa Felsche, Amanda Seed (University of St Andrews), and Daphna Buchsbaum (University of Toronto)

  • Inquiring minds? A developmental and comparative investigation of curiosity; with Eleanor Jordan and Amanda Seed (University of St Andrews)

  • Causal inferences in preschool children and capuchin monkeys based on spatiotemporal information; with Zeynep Civelek and Amanda Seed (University of St Andrews)



Many Primates et al. (2019) Collaborative open science as a way to reproducibility and new insights in primate cognition research. doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/8w7zd 3

Tennie C.*, Völter C.*, Vonau V., Hanus D., Call J., Tomasello M. (2019) Chimpanzees Use Temporal Directionality to Infer Causation. Primates 60, 517–524 (2019). doi.org/10.1007/s10329-019-00754-9 4

*shared first authorship

Many Primates et al. (2019) Establishing an infrastructure for collaboration in primate cognition research. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223675. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223675 5

Völter C., Mundry R., Call J., Seed A.M. (2019) Chimpanzees flexibly update working memory contents and show susceptibility to distraction in the self-ordered search task. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 286: 20190715. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0715 6

Bueno Guerra N., Völter C., de las Heras Á., Colell M., Call J. (2019) Bargaining in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): the effect of cost, amount of gift, reciprocity and communication. Journal of Comparative Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/com0000189 7

Völter C., Tinklenberg B., Call J., & Seed, A. (2018) Comparative psychometrics: Establishing what differs is central to understanding what evolves. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373: 20170283, dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0283 8

Völter C. & Call J. (2018) Intuitive Optics: what nonhuman great apes infer from mirrors and shadows. Animal Cognition, DOI: 10.1007/s10071-018-1184-0

Schmelz M., Duguid S., Bohn M., & Völter C. (2017) Cooperative problem solving in giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) and Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea). Animal Cognition, 20 (6), 1107-1114, DOI: 10.1007/s10071-017-1126-2 9

Bohn M., Allritz M., Call J., & Völter C. (2017) Information seeking about tool properties in great apes. Scientific Reports, 7 (1), 10923, DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-11400-z

Völter C., Rossano F., & Call J. (2016) Social manipulation in nonhuman primates: cognitive and motivational determinants. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.09.008

Völter C., Sentís I., & Call J. (2016) Great apes and children infer causal relations from patterns of variation and covariation. Cognition 155, pp 30–43.

Völter C., Rossano F., & Call J. (2015) From exploitation to cooperation: social tool use in orang-utan mother-offspring dyads. Animal Behaviour 100, pp 126–134

Völter C. & Call J. (2014) Great apes (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, Pongo abelii) follow visual trails to locate hidden food. Journal of Comparative Psychology 128(2), pp 199-208.

Völter C. & Call J. (2014). The cognitive underpinnings of flexible tool use in great apes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition 40(3), pp 287–302.

Völter C. & Call J. (2014) Younger apes and human children plan their moves in a maze task. Cognition 130(2), pp 186–203.

Manrique H.M., Völter C., & Call J. (2012) Repeated innovation in great apes. Animal Behaviour 85(1), pp 195–202.

Völter C. & Call J. (2012) Problem solving in great apes (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla, and Pongo abelii): the effect of visual feedback. Animal Cognition 15(5), pp 923–936.

Völter C., Strobach T., Aichert D.S., Wöstmann N., Costa A., Möller H.-J., Schubert T. & Ettinger U. (2012) Schizotypy and behavioural adjustment and the role of neuroticism. PLoS ONE 7(2): e30078.

Völter C., Riedel M., Wöstmann N., Aichert D.S., Lobo S., Costa A., Schmechtig A., Collier D.A., Hartmann A.M., Giegling I., Möller H.-J., Quednow B.B., Rujescu D., Kumari V. & Ettinger U. (2012) Sensorimotor gating and D2 receptor signalling: evidence from a molecular genetic approach. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 15(10), pp 1427–1440.


Book chapters

Bohn, M., Call, J. & Völter, C. (forthcoming) Evolutionary precursors of negation in non-human reasoning. In V. Déprez & M.T. Espinal (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Negation.

Völter, C., & Call, J. (2017). Causal and inferential reasoning in animals. In J. Call, G. M. Burghardt, I. M. Pepperberg, C. T. Snowdon, & T. Zentall (Eds.), APA Handbook of comparative psychology Vol 2: Perception, learning, and cognition (pp. 643–671).

Völter C. & Call J. (2017) Cognition. In A. Fuentes (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Wiley–Blackwell


Dr.rer.nat. Christoph Völter
T +43 1 25077-2670
E-Mail to Christoph Völter